Aerospace giant Boeing has taken full responsibility for the 2019 Ethiopian Airlines crash on its 737 MAX aircraft that killed 157 people, pledging to determine “appropriate compensation” for the families.
In a filed stipulation to the US District Court in Chicago on 10 November, Boeing’s lawyers said: “Boeing Company admits that it accepts responsibility for the crash of Flight ET 302, which caused the deaths of all onboard the Boeing 737 Max.”
Boeing said it does not “blame” that a person or other entity was responsible for the crash.
In Early 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed on its way to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya.
It marked the second crash within six months on the same aircraft, following a Lion Air crash in 2018 which killed 189 people.
It led to the global grounding of the jet for 20 months, and while it was recertified late last year, the groundings costed the planemaker billions of dollars and continuous scrutiny from trusting customers.
All but two of the families that sued Boeing over the crash agreed to the terms of the stipulation.
Under Illinois law, victims’ families from countries outside of the US can seek compensation, and in return, they will not pursue punitive damages from the planemaker.
Lawyers of the victims released a statement saying that Boeing admitted the 737 MAX “had an unsafe condition”.
“This is a significant milestone for the families in their pursuit of justice against Boeing, as it will ensure they are all treated equitably and eligible to recover full damages under Illinois law, while creating a pathway for them to proceed to a final resolution, whether through settlements or trial.”
Now, Boeing will move ahead with providing compensation for the families’ losses.
“By accepting responsibility, Boeing’s agreement with the families allows the parties to focus their efforts on determining the appropriate compensation for each family,” the planemaker said.
A court judge has set a hearing for next Tuesday to finalise the agreement.
The news comes only days after the planemaker reached a US$237.5 million proposed settlement with shareholders over the lawsuit filed last year following the crashes.
Under the proposed agreement – yet to be approved by the court – the compensations will be paid out by insurers, not the board members or executives.
As part of the proposed settlement, Boeing has agreed to hire a mediator for internal issues and appoint a board representative with aviation safety experience.
The planemaker is also required to implement an ombudsman program where employees can raise workplace concerns, after the Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation in August to decipher whether Boeing “culture” led to the concealment of safety issues.