Boeing has broadly agreed to accept responsibility for the crash of a 737 Max in Ethiopia in 2019 and to be responsible for successful compensation claims by most families of the 157 people who were killed.
Under a deal filed in federal court on Wednesday, Boeing will accept blame for the crash, which led to a worldwide ban on the plane until last year, and will take on sole responsibility for compensatory damages awarded to the victims’ families in the future. The families agreed not to seek punitive damages from Boeing, which they were unlikely to have won.
Boeing also agreed not to try to have cases moved if families filed lawsuits for compensatory damages in Illinois, where it has its headquarters, in a victory for families in jurisdictions that severely limit the amount of money awarded for such claims.
“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,” a committee representing most of the victims’ families said in a statement.
Some families had already settled with Boeing, and the agreement covers all but two of the families with outstanding cases.
In a statement, Boeing offered its “deepest condolences” to the families of those who died on the flight in Ethiopia and to the families of the 189 people who were killed months earlier in a crash of a 737 Max in Indonesia.
“Boeing is committed to ensuring that all families who lost loved ones in the accidents are fully and fairly compensated for their loss,” it said. “By accepting responsibility, Boeing’s agreement with the families allows the parties to focus their efforts on determining the appropriate compensation for each family.”
The two crashes led to a global ban on Boeing’s best-selling plane, the 737 Max, for about 20 months, costing the company billions of dollars. The Federal Aviation Administration approved the plane for flight late last year, and it has been used widely without incident since then.
The debacle damaged Boeing’s reputation and led to additional scrutiny from aviation authorities around the world. In January, Boeing reached a $2.5 billion settlement with the Justice Department. Last month, a federal grand jury indicted a former top pilot for Boeing, and last week a group of current and former company board members settled a shareholder lawsuit.