£1.8bn Agreement Done Behind Closed Doors “Another Slap In The Face”, Say Families
The families of victims killed in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash in 2019 have filed a legal challenge in the US, following an agreement to give Boeing immunity from criminal prosecution.
The move comes after it was revealed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) had been drawn up in secret with US prosecutors that would give Boeing immunity.
The families’ lawyers have called on the court to delay approval of the DPA on grounds that it violates the US Crime Victim Rights Act, as prosecutors did not confer with families of victims before concluding the agreement with Boeing behind closed doors. Other arguments cited in the challenge include:
- The DPA fails to provide any criminal accountability for Boeing;
- The Court has a duty to use its supervisory powers to preserve the integrity of justice;
- Judicial review of DPAs promotes the constitutional separation of powers;
- Boeing was not publicly arraigned in relation to the charges against it, and in fact has not had to appear in open court once; and
- The US Government misled the victims’ families by denying the existence of an ongoing criminal investigation whilst working with Boeing to resolve the DPA.
Sam Pegram, aged 25, from Preston, and fellow UK nationals, Joanna Toole, aged 36, from Exmouth and Oliver Vick, aged 45, were among 157 passengers and crew killed when flight ET302 crashed on 10 March, 2019, six minutes after the 737 Max aircraft took off from Addis Ababa, en route to Nairobi in Kenya.
The crash followed the loss of another 737 Max operated by Lion Air, which crashed into the Java Sea in October 2018 killing all 189 passengers and crew.
As part of the DPA, Boeing agreed to pay fines and compensation totalling £1.8bn, around $2.5bn.
Most of the British victims’ families are being represented by Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Aviation Law Team, including Clive Garner, and are supporting the families in ongoing civil court proceedings against Boeing in Chicago, USA, together with US lawyers.
Expert Opinion“Our clients have been through so much already and we continue to support them with their fight for justice, accountability and transparency.
“It’s totally understandable that the loved ones of those who died are extremely disappointed and concerned by the terms of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement. To our clients, this agreement looks like an attempt to sidestep proper scrutiny and to avoid holding to account the Boeing Company and any of its senior executives and key decision takers under the criminal law.
“As well as their justified concerns about the terms of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement, our clients are astounded by the lack of any consultation with them by the US authorities before the agreement with Boeing was entered into.
“We continue to work with our colleagues in the US to help the families who we represent obtain the answers they seek and the justice they deserve.” Clive Garner - Consultant
Mark Pegram, the father of Sam Pegram, who was working for the Norwegian Refugee Council when he died in the crash of ET302, said: “After everything that has gone before, the way the DPA was agreed in secrecy and without input from the families who lost their loved ones is another slap in the face for the families of those who died.
“An agreement concluded where none of the families were consulted and which gives Boeing immunity is unacceptable.”
Joanna Toole’s father, Adrian Toole, added: “What matters to the families is accountability. This agreement allows the Boeing Company and its senior executives to escape being held accountable under the criminal law."
"We also remain concerned about the decision to allow the Boeing 737 MAX to fly again before the publication of the official accident report in relation to Flight ET302. This further adds to the impression that passenger safety and the families’ losses matter less in the U.S.A than Boeing’s commercial interests."
“What we have demanded all along is transparency and our hope is that this legal challenge will provide it and remind the authorities that taking key decisions without consultation will not succeed in covering up wrong-doing.”