On 15 November, attorney Curtis Miner, a partner at Coral-Gables, Florida-based law firm Colson Hicks Eidson and lead counsel for the plaintiff, announced the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of one of the passengers on Lion Air Flight 610 against The Boeing Company, the manufacturer of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft that crashed 13 minutes after takeoff on 29 October 2018.
“We have filed a complaint against The Boeing Company in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, where Boeing is headquartered, on behalf of our clients, the parents of Dr. Rio Nanda Pratama, who perished when the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft crashed into the sea,” said Miner. “Tragically, Dr. Pratama, a young medical doctor, was flying back home from a conference to get married this week.”
Lion Air Flight 610 was a flight from Soekarno–Hatta International Airport in Jakarta to Depati Amir Airport in Pangkal Pinang. The aircraft was a virtually brand-new Boeing 737 MAX 8 that was designed and manufactured in the United States. All 189 passengers and crew were killed in the accident. Investigators have focused on a new automated flight-control system on the Boeing 737 MAX that was not included in prior versions of the 737. The flight-control system is intended to help the flight crew avoid mistakenly raising a plane’s nose dangerously high, but under certain conditions can push the nose down unexpectedly and so strongly that the pilot cannot pull it back up in time to avoid a crash. This automated feature can be triggered even if pilots are manually flying the aircraft and don’t expect flight-control computers to kick in.
On 7 November, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a new Emergency Airworthiness Directive on the Boeing 737 MAX directed to what it determined to be an “unsafe condition” that is likely to exist or develop in other Boeing 737 MAX airplanes. It has been reported that Boeing withheld information about the potential hazards associated with this new flight-control system, and that U.S. aviation regulators have launched a high-priority review of the safety analyses that Boeing performed over the years and what information it did or did not disclose to airlines about this new flight-control system.
Austin Bartlett of Chicago, Illinois- based law firm BartlettChen LLC, who jointly filed the lawsuit, stated that “it is particularly surprising to hear from safety experts and the heads of pilots unions that Boeing failed to warn its customers and the pilots of its new 737 MAX aircraft about this significant change in the flight-control systems and failed to include appropriate instructions in its instruction manuals.”
Regarding the investigation of the accident, Miner stated that, pursuant to international treaties, the official governmental investigation in Indonesia is typically prohibited from making determinations of liability or fault, but instead will make safety recommendations for its aviation industry and for the future.
“This is why legal actions by the families of the victims are so vital,” said Miner, “the government investigators typically will not make a determination of who is at fault, and just compensation to these families will not be provided by the governmental investigations; that is the critical role of private lawsuits in a tragedy like this.”
H. Irianto, the father of the late Dr. Rio Nanda Pratama, stated that: “all of the families of the victims want to know the truth and causes of this tragedy, same mistakes must be avoided in the future and those responsible must be brought to court. I seek justice for my son and all of the people who lost their lives in the crash.”
The Colson Hicks Eidson law firm has handled many international aviation accidents on behalf of passengers for nearly 50 years, including prior accidents in Indonesia and a prior accident involving Lion Air (the November 30, 2004 crash landing of Lion Air Flight 538 in Solo City, Indonesia). The BartlettChen law firm likewise focuses on handling claims for passengers in aviation accidents and brings a unique perspective as its co-founder, Austin Bartlett, formerly represented defendants in aviation accidents for 17 years.
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