Boeing has paid out the first set of claims over the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX in Indonesia, which killed 189 people when the plane plunged into the sea shortly after take-off.
A US plaintiffs lawyer representing the bereaved confirmed the settlements and three other sources told Reuters that victims’ families will receive at least $1.2 million apiece.
The news comes just days after reports that Indonesian investigators found that design and oversight lapses played a key role in the October 2018 disaster.
Lion Air and Indonesia’s civil aviation authority have objected to the preliminary findings of the National Transportation Safety Committee, first revealed in the Wall Street Journal.
Boeing has said it continues to “work with the investigating authorities on completing the final accident report,” which is expected in November.
The aircraft manufacturer has not commented on the settling of claims after Floyd Wisner of Wisner Law Firm said that 11 out of 17 of his clients’ cases had been resolved. Boeing did not admit liability, he said.
Jakarta plane crash: Flight Lion Air JT610
The claims, each representing one victim, are the first to be settled out of 55 lawsuits filed against Boeing in the US federal court in Chicago and could establish an important bar for mediation talks by other plaintiffs lawyers over the next month.
Brian Kabateck, a high-profile California-based lawyer working on behalf of a dozen Indonesian families, told The Telegraph his clients were fighting for the right to have their compensation claims settled in the US rather than in the Indonesian courts, where payments may be lower.
The life of an Indonesian was “no less important” than any other, he said.
In an earlier interview, one of his clients, Rini Soegiyono, whose younger sister Niar, 39, was killed along with her state prosecutor husband Andri Wiranofa, 41, said that Boeing owes her family and the others taking legal action an explanation for what went wrong.
"The world is also waiting so it is important to know so that it will not happen again. We don’t want any other family to have to go through what we are going through,” she said.
The manufacturer is also facing nearly 100 lawsuits over an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crash on March 10 that killed 157 people on its way from Addis Ababa to Nairobi.
Lawsuits over both crashes claim that design flaws allowed erroneous sensor data to set off an automated system that then overwhelmed pilots.