Many families of those on board the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air Boeing 737 Max planes are suing Boeing after the two fatal crashes.
- People who lost relatives in the two deadly Boeing 737 Max crashes may get more money from Boeing and insurance companies based on how long their relatives knew they were doomed for, according to a lawyer representing families.
- Joe Power, who is representing some of the families that are suing Boeing told Bloomberg that there is a better chance that families will get damages "if it took minutes rather than seconds for the plane to crash."
- The preliminary reports into both crashes involving the aircraft say that both planes repeatedly dived and their noses kept pointing down, suggesting that the passengers could have known a crash was imminent.
- But Boeing has also defended its plane design and has not revealed its legal strategy.
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A lawyer representing the families of Boeing 737 Max victims said that the payout from Boeing and insurance companies could depend on how long passengers knew that their plane was doomed before it fatally crashed.
Joe Power, a Chicago-based personal injury lawyer who is representing some families who lost relatives in the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crash in March, told Bloomberg that the longer their loved ones were aware that their plane was doomed, the more likely families are to get compensation.
"There's a better chance of recovery [a legal term denoting compensation] if it took minutes rather than seconds for the plane to crash," he told Bloomberg.
Power is representing some of the families of the 157 passengers killed a fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019. It was the second crash involving the aircraft in less than five months, after a Lion Air plane crashed in October 2018, killing all 189 people on board.
He told Business Insider: "The issue of compensation for mental suffering and emotional distress suffered by the passengers prior to death is a jury question."
"If it can be proven that the passengers were aware of their likely impending death their estates will be compensated for these elements of damage. Typically the longer the suffering the higher the verdict for those damages."
Boeing is facing lawsuits from families around the world, including in the US, Kenya, and Indonesia, and Ethiopia, as well as shareholders who allege they were defrauded over safety deficiencies in the plane.
A Bloomberg analysis said that settling families' claims families could cost the company $1 billion, and potentially more if Boeing is found to have been aware of any safety deficiency of in the 737 Max aircraft.
Boeing has acknowledged that the plane's automated anti-stall system, called MCAS, misfired in both crashes, based on information from the preliminary reports into both crashes. Both reports found that the planes repeatedly dived and that pilots were unable to stop the plane's noses from repeatedly pointing down.
Lawyers told Bloomberg that this would have made passengers aware that their plane could be doomed, and this would likely affect how much money the families receive.
But the company has not made its legal strategy known, and it is not clear what sort of trial will take place, whether it will give cash settlements rather than go to trial, or what information will be revealed as a number of investigations into both crashes and into the plane's certification continue.
Boeing declined to comment on the lawsuits and its legal strategy when contacted by Business Insider. A spokesperson said: "We recognize the devastation of the families and friends of the passengers and crew members on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and extend our deepest sympathies to all of them."
But Boeing has also defended the design of its 737 Max and how it was built and certified, as well the safety features included as standard on the aircraft.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg vouched for the plane's design and said there was no "technical slip or gap" in building the planes when addressing shareholders in April, and he also defended the company for not disclosing the existence of the MCAS anti-stall software to pilots.
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