Several attorneys representing families of victims killed in an October plane crash filed two wrongful death lawsuits against Boeing on Wednesday, alleging the company is responsible for the crash because of "defective and unsafe conditions" of the aircraft.
The jetliner in question is the Boeing 737 Max, which was involved in two fatal crashes within five months: an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 earlier this month, which killed 157 people, and a Lion Air jet in October, which left 187 people dead.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order on Mar. 13 grounding all Boeing 737 Max aircraft, joining some 40 other countries in barring the Max 8 from airspace.
The FAA is now requiring Boeing to upgrade software and pilot training after the black boxes show pilots struggling to keep the aircraft level as an anti-stall system forced the nose of the aircraft down more than 20 times.
The lawsuits were filed in Cook County against Chicago-based Boeing, according to a statement from the attorneys.
One was filed on behalf of 26-year-old Dayinta Dyah Anggana, whose 54-year-old mother Nurul Dyah Ayu Sitharesmi died in the crash. The second suit was filed on behalf of the 31-year-old widow and daughters of 33-year-old Dr. Ibnu Hantoro.
“Boeing knew or should have known its aircraft and flight operations manual were unsafe and created a significant safety hazard, but the defendant failed to notify or warn anyone, which has caused immense pain and loss for surviving family members,” attorney Steven Hart said in a statement.
Boeing did not immediately respond to request for comment on the lawsuits. When the FAA grounded the planes last week, the company said in a statement that it supported the decision even though it "continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX."
The company also said it had itself recommended the suspension of the Max fleet after consultations with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.
"We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution," Boeing said.
U.S. prosecutors are looking into the development of jets, a person briefed on the matter said Monday, the same day French aviation investigators concluded there were "clear similarities" in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 last week and a Lion Air jet in October.
The Justice Department probe will examine the way Boeing was regulated by the FAA, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the inquiry is not public.
Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the inspector general said Monday they could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any inquiries. The FAA would not comment.
"Boeing does not respond to or comment on questions concerning legal matters, whether internal, litigation, or governmental inquiries," Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers said in an email.