US judge: Passengers in fatal Boeing 737 MAX crash ‘victims of crime’

Oct 21 (Reuters) – A U.S. judge in Texas ruled on Friday that people killed in two Boeing ( BA.N ) 737 MAX crashes are legally considered “victims of crime,” a designation that will determine what remedies must be imposed.

In December, relatives of some crash victims said the U.S. Justice Department violated their legal rights when it entered into a January 2021 deferred prosecution agreement with the airliner over two crashes that killed 346 people.

The families claimed the government “lied and violated their rights through a secret process” and asked U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor to lift Boeing’s immunity from criminal prosecution — which was part of the $2.5 billion settlement — and order the planemaker publicly prosecuted for crimes. charges.

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O’Connor ruled Friday that “in all, but for Boeing’s criminal conspiracy to defraud the (Federal Aviation Administration), 346 people would not have lost their lives in the crashes.”

Paul Cassell, a lawyer for the families, said the ruling “is a huge victory” and “sets the stage for a crucial hearing where we will present proposed remedies that will allow the prosecution to hold Boeing fully accountable.”

Boeing did not immediately comment.

After the families filed the legal challenge, saying their rights were violated under the Victims of Crime Act, Attorney General Merrick Garland met with some of them but stood by the plea agreement, which included a $244 million fine, restitution of 1 $.77 billion for airlines and a $500 million crash victim fund.

The agreement capped a 21-month study into the design and development of the 737 MAX following the deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019.

Boeing did not disclose key details to the FAA about a safety system called MCAS, which has been linked to both fatalities and was designed to help counter a tendency for the MAX to pitch up. “Had Boeing not committed its crime” pilots in Ethiopia and Indonesia would have “received training sufficient to respond to the MCAS activation that occurred on both aircraft,” O’Connor ruled.

The accidents, which have cost Boeing more than $20 billion in compensation, production costs and fines and led to a 20-month grounding of the best-selling plane, prompted Congress to pass legislation reforming FAA aircraft certification.

Boeing wants Congress to waive a December deadline set by law for the FAA to certify the MAX 7 and MAX 10. After that date, all planes must have modern cockpit alarm systems, which the 737 does not have.

Last month, Boeing paid $200 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it misled investors about the MAX.

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Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Chris Reese and Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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