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Seattle law firm sues Boeing for deadly Lion Air crash

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SEATTLE -- A Seattle law firm has filed a lawsuit against Boeing, alleging that the company’s faulty equipment and failure to inform pilots about the dangers of a new automated system led to the Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people.

The Herrmann Law Group is representing the families of 17 victims, according to a news release from the law firm.

The plane, a new Boeing 737 MAX 8, was carrying 181 passengers, six cabin crew members and two pilots. It was heading for Pangkal Pinang on the island of Bangka when it crashed on Oct. 29, killing all 189 people on board.

A preliminary report into the crash released by Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee in November found that the Lion Air pilots engaged in a futile tug-of-war with the plane’s automatic systems after taking off.

Data retrieved from the flight recorder showed the pilots repeatedly fought to override an automatic safety system installed in the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane that pulled the plane’s nose down more than two dozen times.

About 12 minutes after take-off, the plane went into a steep dive, crashing into the ocean 45 seconds later at 500 mph, according to the Herrmann Law Group.

“Boeing did not include any mention of the new system in the Aircraft Flight Manual, which pilots rely upon. Further, the system activates automatically with no notice given to the pilot,” the news release states.

According to the preliminary report, a different flight crew experienced the same issue on a flight from Denpasar to Jakarta the previous day. However, that crew turned off the automatic safety feature, known as the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), and took manual control of the plane.

The feature is new to Boeing’s MAX planes and automatically activates to lower the nose to prevent the plane from stalling, based on information sent from its external sensors. Indonesian investigators have already pointed to issues with the plane’s angle-of-attack (AoA) sensors, which had proved faulty on earlier flights.

The lawsuit also targets the Federal Aviation Administration. Attorneys maintain that the FAA is partially responsible for the crash because it certified Boeing’s Air Flight Manual without requiring adequate instruction and training on the new system. Canadian and Brazilian authorities did require additional training.

“Years of experience representing hundreds of victims has revealed a common thread through most air disaster cases,” said Charles Herrmann, the principal of Herrmann Law. “Generating profit in a fiercely competitive market too often involves cutting safety measures. In this case, Boeing cut training and completely eliminated instructions and warnings on a new system. Pilots didn’t even know it existed. I can’t blame so many pilots for being mad as hell.”

Former Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist, who joined the Herrmann Law Group in January, is working on the case with Herrmann. They met with victim families in Indonesia earlier this year. More family members are expected to join the lawsuit.

“These families are heartbroken. They deserve vigorous representation,” said Lindquist. “As a prosecutor for 23 years, I was committed to justice, accountability, and helping people. That’s my focus in this case as well.”  

Q13 has reached out to Boeing for comment. Check back for updates.

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