The family of Samya Stumo, Ralph Nader’s niece, is suing Boeing and its affiliates for negligence and civil conspiracy.
The family of an American woman killed in last month’s Ethiopian Airlines accident are suing the airline, its manufacturer and a parts supplier.
The crash, which may be linked to an aspect of the Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner’s flight control system, left 157 dead.
Among the deceased was Samya Stumo, 24, a niece of former presidential candidate Ralph Nader. According to the New York Times, Stumo’s relatives filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Chicago on Thursday.
Other families are pursuing similar litigation against Boeing, Ethiopian Airlines and Rosemount Aerospace.
Rosemount, notes the Times, produced angle-of-attack sensors for Boeing aircraft. Situated near the nose of the 737 Max 8, the sensors indicate whether a plane’s speed or incline put it at risk of stalling. While investigations are still underway, it’s believed the angle-of-attack sensors malfunctioned, reporting an unsafe upward pitch.
In response, Boeing’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System—or MCAS, for short—tried to compensate by pulling the jetliner’s nose back down. Unable to override MCAS, Ethiopian’s pilots were forced into a tug-of-war with the plane’s controls.
Similarities between the Ethiopian accident and October’s Lion Air crash all point to MCAS. While the system could be disabled, many pilots didn’t receive adequate training in its use.
As countries and companies around the world have grounded May 8 aircraft in response, Boeing has maintained that its jetliners are safe as ever.
On Wednesday, Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg joined test pilots to demonstrate its updated and improved MCAS software.
“The software update worked as designed, and the pilots landed safely at Boeing Field,” said Gordon Johndroe, Boeing’s vice president of communications. “Safety is our first priority, and we will take a thorough and disciplined approach to the development and testing of the update to ensure we take the time to get it right.”
But, as Time.com reports, Boeing is still subject to suspicion. Despite many nations rushing to ground the Max 8, the Federal Aviation Administration deferred any decision.
To that end, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said he’s received reports that FAA safety inspectors—including those responsible for regulating and approving use of the 737 Max—lacked proper training and certifications.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) plans to launch an investigation into the discrepancies and how they may relate to the FAA’s evaluation of the Max 8.
Preliminary reports on the Ethiopian crash suggest the aircraft’s pilots may have correctly diagnosed the MCAS failure and ‘repeatedly’ performed the correct procedures to override the system. Nevertheless, they were unable to regain control of the jetliner, plummeting into the sea as they desperately tried to increase altitude.
Stumo’s family says the crash occurred through a combination of negligence, failure to warn and civil conspiracy.
“Blinded by its greed, Boeing haphazardly rushed the 737 Max 8 to market, with the knowledge and tacit approval of the United States Federal Aviation Administration,” the lawsuit says. “Boeing’s decision to put profits over safety […] and the regulators that enabled it, must be held accountable for their reckless actions.”
While Stumo’s relatives are the first Americans to sue, their lawsuit follows a series of litigation aimed at Boeing and its affiliates.
The Washington Post notes that ‘more than 30 relatives of those who died in the Lion Air Crash’ have also filed lawsuits against Boeing, claiming the manufacturer didn’t warn pilots about problems with MCAS.
Ralph Nader has also criticized the apparently cozy relationship being Boeing and its federal regulators.
“At the wreckage near Bishoftu in a small pastoral farm field and in the Java Sea off Indonesia lie the remains of the early victims of arrogant, algorithm driven corner cutting, by reckless corporate executives and their captive government regulators,” Nader wrote in a blog post last week.
Nader, adds the Post, joined Stumo’s parents, Michael Stumo and Nadia Milleron, in announcing the lawsuit Thursday.
“Samya was a fearless, radian spirit who inspired others to live brightly and fully,” Milleron said in a statement. “She was ambitious and passionate about revolutionizing global health. She cared most about treating all people and patients as human beings, particularly in the context of their culture, family and individuality.”