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Boeing is hit with U.S. lawsuit following 737 Max crash in Ethiopia

Boeing 737 Max documents subpoenaed

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Boeing for the company's role in the fatal crash of Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302 earlier this month. The lawsuit, filed in Illinois, has been brought on behalf on one of the victim's estates and accuses Boeing of "a defective design, and concomitant inadequate warnings, of the Boeing 737 Max 8." 

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Chicago, where Boeing is based, on behalf of the estate of Jackson Musoni, a Rwandan citizen who died on Flight 302. Boeing is accused in the suit of "defectively" designing "a new flight control system for the Boeing 737 Max 8 that automatically and erroneously pushes the aircraft's nose down," and of failing "to warn of the defect." 

Boeing said it could not comment on the lawsuit, but in a statement provided to CBS News, the company said: "We offer our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those onboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Boeing continues to support the investigation, and is working with the authorities to evaluate new information as it becomes available. In accordance with international protocol, all inquiries about the ongoing accident investigation must be directed to the investigating authorities."

The lawsuit also accuses the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of "negligence in certifying the 737 Max 8 by delegating too much regulatory authority to Boeing over its own planes" and "by failing to require the testing, pilot training, and manual updates that should have been required for the new 737 Max 8 under the FAA's own mandatory rules and protocols."

Boeing and the FAA have both come under fire after two fatal crashes involving 737 Max 8 aircraft within five months. The aircraft are currently grounded worldwide. On Wednesday, Boeing announced a software update to the 737 Max fleet which it said would prevent erroneous data from triggering the MCAS anti-stall system, which is suspected to have played a role in both the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October and the Ethiopian Airlines crash.  

The lawsuit brought against Boeing in Illinois takes particular aim at the MCAS system and the certification process of the technology on the aircraft. 737 Max planes are outfitted with bigger, more fuel-efficient engines than earlier 737s, a change that shifts the center of gravity forward and increases the potential for the nose to pitch up after take-off. To counteract this risk, Boeing added software known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. Boeing and the FAA decided pilots did not need to be informed about this change to the flight control system, at least in part to minimize the cost to airlines of retraining pilots.

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