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Judge Throws Out Class Action Lawsuits Against Boeing And Southwest Airlines

SimpleFlying 11/21/2022 Lukas Souza
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Early today, a United States appeals court dismissed class-action lawsuits against Boeing and Southwest Airlines, accusing the two of covering up fatal flaws of the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

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Class action lawsuits thrown out

Following two fatal crashes in less than six months, the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded worldwide. A Lion Air MAX crashed in October 2018, and in March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines MAX crashed. After investigations, passengers accused Southwest Airlines and Boeing of covering certain things up during the certification process.

Southwest Airlines was the launch customer of the MAX 8 and was accused of working with Boeing to deceive the Federal Aviation Administration. Passengers also accused the two companies of hiding the truth about a stability system that took control of both of the airplanes in the accidents and pointed their noses down.

In the lawsuit, passengers claimed that Southwest and American Airlines overcharged passengers for tickets due to the accidents. They also believed that prices on the routes serviced by the MAX aircraft would have dropped if the truth had been discovered.

The judge over the case, Circuit Judge Andrew Oldham, said that the plaintiff's case lacked standing. According to the judge, passengers "complained of a past risk of physical injury to which they were allegedly exposed because of defendants' fraud." Oldham added that prices would have been significantly higher for passengers had the aircraft been taken out of service earlier.

Pilot lawsuit against Boeing and MAX aircraft

At the end of October a federal judge dismissed another lawsuit involving Boeing's MAX aircraft. United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Judge Steven C. Seeger dismissed a pilot lawsuit against Boeing. The pilots sued Boeing because of the failed Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (“MCAS”), which led to the two accidents in 2018 and 2019.

The pilots in the lawsuit claimed financial hardship because of the grounding of the MAX aircraft worldwide, but the judge ruled against them. Though the judge recognized that there was indeed financial hardship, Illinois state law says that “...is established only if the defendant’s conduct is so closely tied to the plaintiff’s injury that he should be held legally responsible for it.”

Judge Seeger quoted a late Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia,

“Life is too short to pursue every human act to its most remote consequences; ‘for want of a nail, a kingdom was lost’ is a commentary on fate, not the statement of a major cause of action against a blacksmith.”

The judge found that the case rested on "misfortunes suffered by a stranger" and that it would be extreme to side against Boeing and the airlines in every case. If the judge sided against the companies, he claimed that the boundary of liability would be stretched too far.

Seeger also discovered that the pilots had not gotten certified because manuals lacked proper information about the MCAS system. For this reason, a case cannot be taken to a US civil court.

  • Boeing
    Stock Code: BA
    Date Founded: 1916-07-15
    CEO: Dave Calhoun
    Headquarters Location: Chicago, USA
    Key Product Lines: Boeing 737, Boeing 747, Boeing 757, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Boeing 787
    Business Type: Planemaker
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