Boeing agreed on Wednesday to acknowledge liability for compensatory damages in lawsuits filed by families of the 157 people killed in the 2019 Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crash, according to a filing in US District Court in Chicago.
As a result of the agreement between Boeing and the families, lawyers for the victims will not seek punitive damages and Boeing will not challenge the lawsuits being filed in Illinois.
“Boeing is committed to ensuring that all families who lost loved ones in the accidents are fully and fairly compensated for their loss,” the planemaker said in a statement on Wednesday. “By accepting responsibility, Boeing’s agreement with the families allows the parties to focus their efforts on determining the appropriate compensation for each family.”
Lawyers for the victims noted in a statement that Boeing (BA) admitted under the agreement “that the 737 Max had an unsafe condition, and that it will not attempt to blame anyone else” for the crash.
“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,” the lawyers said.
They added the compensation “will serve to hold Boeing fully accountable for the deaths of the 157 people who perished.”
A judge has set a hearing for next Tuesday on the agreement.
Boeing’s best-selling plane was grounded for 20 months after 346 people died in two 737 Max crashes - in Indonesia in 2018 and in Ethiopia in 2019. The plane returned to service after Boeing made significant software and training improvements.
The crashes already have cost Boeing some $20 billion. In January, Boeing agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice including $2.5 billion in fines and compensation stemming from the 737 Max crashes, including the Lion Air crash in October 2018.
In an interview, US consumer activist Ralph Nader criticized the deal since it will prevent lawyers from questioning current and former Boeing senior executives and pursuing the punitive damage claims. Nader’s niece was among 157 victims.
Under the deal with Boeing, the victims’ families also agreed to dismiss claims against Rosemount Aerospace, a company that made sensors for the 737 Max, and Raytheon Technologies Corp’s Rockwell Collins, the parent of Rosemount and a key supplier for the Max.