Boeing may have conspired with American regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to sell an unairworthy plane to Ethiopian Airlines.
The American aircraft manufacturer, the largest in the world, has been sued in the US by Kenyan families affected by the 737 Max plane crash in which all on board died.
In a pre-trial conference that kicked off in Seattle, the victims lawyers alleged a civil conspiracy in the suit filed at the Northern District Federal Court in Illinois, claiming that Boeing and FAA colluded to authorise an unsafe aircraft to be released to the market.
US-based Friedman Rubin and Shakespear law firm in a consortium of lawyers that includes Kenyan-based Irungu Kang'ata and Gachie Mwanza have sued Boeing, the manufacturer of the 737 Max aircraft, for the deadly crash in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia five months ago, on March 10, that killed 157 people on board, including 32 Kenyans.
“This is a case of the fox guarding the hen house. Over the years, the FAA has given the authority to sign off the planes as airworthy to the manufacturer who does not have the capacity or the technical expertise to do so. This must change,” said Ms Alisa Brodkowitz.
The Ethiopian Airlines was the second 737 Max plane to crash after a Lion Air carrier crashed off the Indonesian Coast in October last year.
Though the lawyers have not disclose how much they will be demanding as compensation for each of the affected families, they hinted at going for a ‘substantial amount’ in punitive damages.
“For a company that makes 10 trillion shillings in profits if you have to punish them then they must feel it so that they can change, ” said Shakespear Feyissa.
Mr Kang'ata, who is also the Murang'a County senator, and his Nandi County counterpart Cherargei Kiprotich, who also chairs the senate standing committee on justice, legal affairs and human rights, have promised to hold talks with the Foreign Affairs and Interior ministries and the Attorney-General’s office to iron out issues that may deter the families from pursuing justice for their kin.
Ms Wanjiku Wairia, a relative of one of the victims of the crash, has however faulted the government of Kenya for reneging on some of the promise it gave to the bereaved families.
“The government had communicated to us that it will hire counsellors for the affected families immediately after the accident, but unfortunately that is yet to happen,” she said.