Boeing hit by first Ethiopian Airlines liability lawsuit

Relatives of a United Nations employee killed in the downing of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 have filed a product liability lawsuit against Boeing in a Chicago court. 

A representative of the estate of Jackson Musoni has launched an action against the aerospace giant under Illinois laws including a wrongful death act and a product liability act. 

Musoni died after the 737 Max 8 aircraft crashed shortly after take-off from Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa International airport. 

Lawyers for Musoni have submitted four counts of wrongdoing against Boeing, according to court papers. 

The first relates to strict product liability, arguing that the 737 Max 8 aircraft was “unreasonably dangerous” when it left the custody of Boeing. The second count involves negligence relating to product liability, whereby the plaintiff claims the manufacturer breached its duty of care. 

The plaintiffs also argue that Boeing is guilty of a failure to warn because of a defective design of the aircraft’s automated flight control system.  

In addition, Boeing is guilty of civil conspiracy with the FAA to wave through certification of the latest iteration of the aircraft, the plaintiff says in court documents. 

The Ethiopian Airlines liability lawsuit follows a rash of product liability cases stemming from last year’s Lion Air disaster brought against Boeing in recent weeks. 

A 737 Max 8 airliner crashed into the Java Sea in October 2018 with 189 passengers and crew on board. 

Since 10 March lawyers have filed cases on behalf of 18 passengers killed in the Lion Air disaster. 

The filings were all airplane product liability suits and filed in a court for the Northern District of Illinois. 

Underwriters in the aerospace insurance market are anticipating a slew of claims concerning Boeing’s manufacturer’s liability policy. 

Earlier this month The Insurance Insider revealed that Boeing has a $2.5bn manufacturer’s liability programme, brokered by Marsh and led by Global Aerospace (GA). 

GA is also the lead market on Ethiopian Airlines’ aviation all-risk insurance policy. Multiple sources told this publication that the hull of the 737 Max 8 aircraft destroyed in the 10 March crash was likely to cost between $50mn and $60mn. 

Boeing’s manufacturer’s liability policy is understood to include a $500mn grounding component and sources said it was also likely to include a product liability subsegment.  

In its 1st View reinsurance report last week Willis said it expected grounding liability claims from the disaster to cost three to four years’ worth of global excess of loss premium – at least $1bn. 

Tom Ellis, director of litigation support at Nolan Law Group, representing a number of Lion Air relatives, told The Insurance Insider: “The major concern at the moment is getting the elements we need to prove our case. All options are open.”  

Steven Marks, managing partner at law firm Podhurst Orseck, representing the estate of Musoni, said the plaintiff would push for punitive damages against the aerospace manufacturer. 

“The consequences for Boeing could be catastrophic,” he told this publication. 

Boeing declined to comment