The MAX Files: Crash Payouts – How Long Did Victims Know Their Fate?

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While browsing through recommended stories on my phone earlier today, I came across some unsettling information regarding Boeing’s potential payouts to the families of 737 MAX crash victims.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to this article in the National Post, part of the calculation on payouts from Boeing to victim’s families will be based on “how long did the victims know they were plunging to their deaths.”

As disturbing as the equation is on it’s face, is the fact that this number will probably be litigated up and down by the various parties to the lawsuits already filed and to be filed by the families of victims in the two 737 MAX crashes.

According to one lawyer, the longer someone knew their fate the better the financial recovery from Boeing.

“There’s a better chance of recovery if it took minutes rather than seconds for the plane to crash,” said Joe Power, a personal-injury lawyer in Chicago representing some Ethiopian victims.

Changing Venues

It appears that Boeing is taking some strides to limit it’s financial exposure in the Lion Air crash by trying to move those cases to Indonesia, where financial payouts would likely be smaller, no jury trials exist, and Boeing has little corporate presence in the event a highly punitive decision was reached.  Boeing’s rationale in a venue change is that the victim’s (for the most part), lived and died in Indonesia.

According to the National Post:

Most of the lawsuits have been filed in Chicago, where Boeing is headquartered. Juries in the city have been generous to plaintiffs. Last year, two of the largest U.S. personal-injury verdicts were in Chicago: a US$50 million obstetric medical malpractice award and a US$45 million verdict over the death of a child.

Boeing’s desire to move the trials from their home in Chicago to an overseas venue may not be successful however, as Robert Rabin, a Stanford University law professor states:

“Most of the questions will be technical questions and the experts on both sides will be based in the U.S.”

Conclusion

Given that Boeing has now admitted that it knew ahead of time of the MCAS issues with the 737 MAX line, the responsibility to “make whole” the families of the crash victims is not just a financial one but a moral and ethical responsibility as well.

Attempting to limit their exposure through bizarre calculations, moving to overseas venues and other legal trickery will do little or nothing to restore public confidence in Boeing or it’s products.  The most ethical and prudent action in terms of long-term financial sustainability for Boeing is to offer the victim’s families an honest and generous payout, fix the MAX problems and move on.

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