Families of the victims of the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes have had their request to declare that the government violated their legal rights when it reached a US$2.5 billion resolution of criminal charges with the American planemaker opposed by both Boeing and the US Justice Department. While the DOJ confirmed in its court filing that “the government apologizes for not meeting and conferring with these crash victims’ beneficiaries before entering into” a deferred prosecution agreement with Boeing – a sort of corporate plea deal.
The settlement in January 2021 was reached after a 21-month investigation onto the crash in Indonesia and the subsequent crash in Ethiopia which killed a total of 346 people. According to Reuters news agency, in the filing, the Department of Justice explained its decision not to take Boeing to a trial on a criminal charge of conspiring to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency that regulates Boeing and evaluated its airliners.
“There was no doubt that Boeing had conspired to defraud the federal government when it deceived the FAA Aircraft Evaluation Group,” the filing said. “The government’s investigation, however, did not produce evidence that it believed would allow it to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what factors had caused the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302,” it added, referring to the two fatal flights.
Paul Cassell, a lawyer for the families, criticized the Justice Department’s position that relatives of those killed in the crashes do not qualify as “crime victims” under federal law. Paul Cassell, a lawyer for the families, was critical of the Justice Department’s view that relatives of those killed in the crashes do not qualify as “crime victims” under federal law. “The Department of Justice’s claim that the families are not the ‘victims’ of Boeing’s crimes is unconscionable and unsupportable,” Cassell said in a statement.
The settlement reached with the DOJ enabled Boeing to avoid prosecution, and included a fine of US$243.6 million, compensation to airlines of US$1.77 billion and a US$500 million fund for crash victims over fraud conspiracy charges related to the plane’s flawed design. The DOJ has confirmed that of the US$500 million, US$471 has been distributed to relatives of 326 of the 346 crash victims. (£1.00 = US$1.35 at time of publication).