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Families of Boeing Crash Victims Can Challenge U.S. Settlement, Judge Rules

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A federal judge in Texas on Friday overturned a $2.5 billion legal settlement between Boeing and the Justice Department, seeking criminal liability against the company’s relatives of two deadly Boeing 737 Max crash victims. brought important victories to

In a strongly worded ruling, Judge Reed O’Connor said, “The court found that the tragic loss of life resulting from the two plane crashes was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of Boeing’s conspiracy to deceive the United States. I have decided,” he wrote. As such, his 346 people who died in the 2018 and his 2019 crashes fall under “crime victims” under the Crime Victims Rights Act, he said.

“Now we have before a judge that the remedy for this is to annul this rotten deal and to criminally prosecute Boeing for the crimes that led to the deaths of 346 people, and to criminally prosecute its leaders. Got a chance to say… man,” Paul CasselA former federal judge who represented relatives of victims in pro bono cases said in an interview.

A Boeing spokesman declined to comment on Friday. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Relatives of some of the crash victims said a deferred prosecution agreement between the Justice Department and the company violated their rights. The deal, which settled criminal charges that Boeing conspired to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration, closed last year during the waning days of the Trump administration.

As a result, Boeing will set up a $500 million fund to compensate the families of those who died, pay about $244 million in fines, and pay airlines $1.77 billion in compensation. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who participated in a video call with the victim’s family and their representatives in January, supported the deal.

In October 2018, one of the Max jet airliners, Lion Air Flight 610, crashed minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing 189 people. Then, in March 2019, another Max, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, crashed just minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 of his people on board.

The criminal case against the company revolved around the actions of two employees who withheld information from the FAA, which regulates Boeing and evaluates its aircraft, about changes made to its flight stabilization software, known as MCAS. This software was later found to be responsible for both crashes.

In Friday’s sentence, Judge O’Connor said the family “established an appropriate direct causal link between the Boeing criminal conspiracy and the resulting crash.”

One of the relatives, Naoise Connolly Ryan, said in a post-judgment statement, “The government deliberately hid the agreement with Boeing from us — the families of the victims — and the company responsible for the deaths of our loved ones. I gave him full immunity,” he said.

Ryan, who lost her husband Mick in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, said: “Families like mine are real victims of Boeing’s illegal activities and I want to help them before the government gives them a special deal. We should have taken their opinions into account,” he added.

Cassel, a University of Utah Law School professor and crime victim rights expert, called the ruling “a pivotal moment in the national crime victim rights movement.” He added that in a case where the deal was done behind closed doors without consulting the victim, or in a murder case, it would be difficult to protect the family.

“This shows that business as usual is not going well,” he said.

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