The family of an American passenger on board the recent Boeing 737 Max passenger plane that crashed last month in Ethiopia has filed a lawsuit against the plane's manufacturer.
The lawsuit alleges that Boeing was negligent on many different fronts, put profits ahead of safety, and should be held liable for the crash. The allegations explain that a few months before the Ethiopian crash, the same type of plane, being operated by Lion Air in Indonesia, suffered the same sort technical failure causing a similar fatal crash.
Boeing to Blame
The case against Boeing, in large part, also implicates the Federal Aviation Administration, as the agency approved the subject planes as safe. But the case lays the blame with Boeing, as it pushed the new 737 Max aircrafts to different airlines with a sales pitch that promised the new planes did not require retraining for pilots familiar with prior 737 aircrafts. Pilots were provided with a short iPad tutorial, which notably did not explain that the planes were equipped with an aggressive autopilot computer that is believed to be behind both the Ethiopian and Indonesian crashes.
The lawsuit pushes for punitive damages (damages meant to punish a defendant's egregious behavior) because it is alleged that Boeing should have grounded all 737 Max planes after the Lion Air crash due to the faulty autopilot.
Autopilot Too Strong for Real Pilots
The autopilot computer on board the 737 Max is designed to work by automatically pushing the nose of an aircraft down if the plane begins to stall. It is designed to do so to protect against pilots pulling the nose up too high during an engine stall (presumably, a common pilot error). However, it is alleged that the autopilot's automatic nose dip in the two recent crashes were so strong that the pilots could not correct it, causing the planes to crash. The complaint describes the event as the pilots being "engaged in a terrifying tug-of-war" with the autopilot.
Notably, the American passenger on board the Ethiopian Air flight was the niece of American politician and activist, Ralph Nader.