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Judge rejects families of 737 MAX victims’ request to bring legal action against Boeing

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Judge Reed O’Connor of the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas rejected the request by the families of the 737 MAX victims to file a lawsuit against Boeing.

Due to a prior agreement with the US Department of Justice, the manufacturer is exempt from prosecution in relation to the two fatal crashes of the kind (DOJ).

The families had petitioned O’Connor to remove Boeing’s immunity from prosecution. Even if the maker is engaging in “egregious criminal conduct,” the judge suggested he lacks the power to do so.

In the past, O’Connor charged Boeing with felony fraud conspiracy because the company’s agreement with the DOJ broke a victim’s rights legislation. Since the same judge determined that the relatives of the victims were also crime victims, it is mandated by law that Boeing and DOJ disclose details of their settlement agreement.

The settlement was reached in January 2021, and the DOJ ordered Boeing to pay $2.5 billion in damages and fines to the US Government, airlines, and victims.

Of that $2.5 billion, $500 million was given to the relatives of the crash victims, $1.7 billion went to the airlines impacted by the groundings that lasted from March 2019 to late 2020/early 2021, and $243.6 million was used as a criminal fine. Immunity from any future criminal prosecution was part of the settlement.

“This court has immense sympathy for the victims and loved ones of those who died in the tragic plane crashes resulting from Boeing’s criminal conspiracy,” stated O’Connor, adding that if Congress had given him authority to do so, he would not have hesitated to rule in the victims’ families favor.

Boeing pleaded not guilty to the accusations when it came before the District Court for the Northern District of Texas in January 2023. In the same decision, O’Connor rejected a request by the families of the victims for an impartial party to check on whether the manufacturer of the plane had established a culture of ethics and safety.

The DOJ stated that an ‘independent compliance monitor was unnecessary’ due to several factors when it settled with the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).

After Boeing entered a plea of not guilty, a lawyer for the relatives of the victims filed a document in the same court alleging that the OEM had broken the terms of the agreement with the DOJ.

In total, 346 individuals lost their lives in the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes, which occurred in Indonesia and Ethiopia in October 2018 and March 2019, respectively.

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