Seattle firm representing families of victims killed in January plane crash files suit against Boeing

A Seattle law firm representing family members of victims killed when a Boeing 737-500 crashed in the Java Sea in January has filed a lawsuit against the airline manufacturer. 

On Jan. 9, 2021, a Boeing 737-524 was flying from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Pontianak, Indonesia, when it crashed five minutes after departing from the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. 

None of the 62 people on board survived. It's unknown what caused the plane to crash, but early investigations reveal it may have had something to do with an auto-throttle system. 

On March 23, 2020, the 26-year-old Boeing plane was parked due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of other 737 planes around the world were parked as well, which created an unprecedented challenge for maintenance, Seattle firm Herrmann Law Group said in a news release. 

"This is a major public safety issue. As the manufacturer of the plane, Boeing has an ongoing duty to warn airlines and instruct airlines to help them keep the planes safe. In this instance, you have at least two problems where Boeing failed to give adequate warnings and instructions.  Number one,  the parking of the planes during this pandemic and number two, the repeated problems with the auto throttle," said Mark Lindquist, lead attorney on the case for the Herrmann Law Group. 

The auto-throttle system in the 737-500 planes is different from the now-famed MCAS system in the 737 MAX jets, which was blamed for two deadly crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia and forced the grounding of MAX jets worldwide. 

The families are suing for damages as a result of the crash and also claim Boeing's negligence caused the crash. 

"Boeing negligently designed, manufactured, assembled and sold the subject aircraft such that the automatic throttle system was subject to failure. Failures include, specifically, the automatic throttle can stick and thereby cause significant differences in power between engines, resulting in a loss of control of the aircraft," the suit reads. 

The suit also claims the aircraft was dangerous because "Boeing did not provide adequate warnings and instructions about how to respond to a failure in the automatic throttle, corrosion of check valves, or the dangers of parking an aircraft for an extended period." 

Herrmann Law Group also represented families from the two other deadly Boeing crashes. 

All of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are residents and citizens of Indonesia.

In a statement to Q13 News, Boeing said: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of the crew and passengers on Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182, and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to their families and loved ones. It would be inappropriate to comment while our technical experts continue to assist with the investigation, or on any pending litigation."

The suit comes at a rough time for Boeing. The 737 MAX Jets were grounded for nearly two years after the Ethiopian crash in March 2019. Only a few months ago was Boeing able to start getting the 737 MAX Jets recertified and back in the air. 

Families of the victims sued Boeing and in a separate lawsuit claimed collusion between Boeing and the FAA before the two crashes. That lawsuit claimed the FAA became too cozy with Boeing, leading to a lack of proper oversight in clearing the 737 MAX to fly. 

RELATED: Some Kenyan families reject Boeing's compensation for crash

In the suit, one of the victims said that if Boeing and the FAA had done their jobs properly, "these planes would have been grounded in November and today I would be enjoying summer with my family, I would be playing football with my son."

Boeing has settled over 150 lawsuits filed by families of passengers killed in the previous two crashes.

In January, the company agreed to pay $2.5 billion to avoid prosecution by the U.S. Justice Department for defrauding the FAA during the development of the 737 MAX. 

Boeing admitted that two former employees misled the FAA about a key flight system implicated in the crashes.

In February, the FAA fined Boeing nearly $6.6 million for failing to meet its performance obligations under a 2015 settlement agreement.

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