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Boeing’s $100 Million Pledge for 737 MAX Crash Victims Sparks Criticism and Questions

07/03/2019

Boeing announced a $100 million fund Wednesday as an “initial outreach” to the families of victims of the two 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, a step that lawyers for the families called “unprecedented ” yet dismissed as little more than a publicity ploy.

Because the money will be disbursed partly to local authorities and communities, families and lawyers expressed fear that some of it will line the pockets of local officials and could even exert Boeing influence on the handling of the investigations by the Indonesian and Ethiopian authorities.

Boeing said Wednesday it will provide the money “over multiple years … to address family and community needs of those affected by the tragic accidents of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.”

The company said the money is intended to “support education, hardship and living expenses for impacted families, community programs, and economic development in impacted communities.”


Boeing said it will work with local governments and nonprofit organizations to deploy the money, over a period of years.

Lawyers from the victims’ families reacted negatively Wednesday. Steven Marks, of the Miami law firm Podhurst Orseck, who represents more than 30 families of victims in both crashes, called it “nothing more than a public-relations stunt to appease the general public.”

Jeff Feldman, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law, said such advance payments are “not uncommon in mass tort or mass casualty cases.”

“When the Exxon Valdez went aground in Alaska, Exxon made substantial pre-litigation payments to various parties (e.g., fisherman, communities affected by the spill),” Feldman said via email. “I believe that BP did the same thing following the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Mark Dombroff, an Alexandria, Va.-based aviation lawyer with LeClairRyan, said that after most airline accidents, “the airline sends a check to the family, without asking for releases or a credit against any future settlement,” to handle immediate needs like mortgage or school tuition.

Read the full article in The Seattle Times here.

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