Families ‘cheated of Boeing shock compensation’
The relatives of the people who died in the Boeing 737 Max accident in Indonesia last year have been deceived, their lawyers say.
The lawyers told the BBC that many families were persuaded to sign forms that prevent them from taking legal action.
BBC Panorama discovered that other relatives signed similar agreements after two other clashes, which prevented them from suing Boeing in US courts.
Boeing has refused to comment on the agreements.
The 189 passengers and crew were killed when the Boeing 737 Max crashed into the sea just 13 minutes after taking off from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on October 29, 2018.
In a matter of weeks, the insurance lawyers offered compensation to the relatives.
To access the money, families had to sign agreements that would prevent them from taking legal action against Boeing or the airline, Lion Air.
Merdian Agustin’s husband, Eka, died in the accident. She says that the insurance lawyers tried to pressure her to dismiss her rights.
“They gave me a document to sign in. The document says you can have the money, but you can not sue Lion Air, you can not sue Boeing.
“They said you should sign this, you should go ahead, in one or two hours you’ll get the money and you’ll go on with life, but I do not want it, it’s not about money, it’s about my husband’s life.” , she said.
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Ms. Agustín did not sign, but it is believed that around 50 families did so. They will receive compensation of less than £ 74,000 ($ 92,000) each.
The payments are controversial because, according to Indonesian law, families are automatically entitled to compensation of £ 71,000.
Sanjiv Singh, an American lawyer who represents some of the families, said that the BBC’s relatives had been pressured to withdraw their legal rights.
“The families that signed the release and the dismissal [the documents] have been deceived by the compensation, have been victims of the insurance companies and the lawyer of those insurance companies and, ultimately, in the benefit of Boeing,” he said. .
He added that families were potentially entitled to millions of dollars in compensation.
This is not the first time that Boeing has benefited from controversial release and discharge documents.
In 2005, a Boeing 737 crashed into a residential area of Indonesia, killing 149 people. The families signed agreements that prevented them from suing Boeing in the courts of the United States. Similar agreements were signed after a 737 crash that killed 102 passengers and crew in 2007.
An unnamed insurance lawyer was involved on all three occasions.
Mr. Singh says that this raises serious questions about whether Boeing was involved in Lion Air’s more recent agreements.
“I think that makes it unlikely that Boeing, at least, did not know that the launches were being collected, I think it raises a very important question as to whether they coordinated it.”
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Panorama asked Boeing if he knew the agreements or had any communication with the insurance lawyers who helped to organize them.
Boeing did not answer any of the questions raised by the Panorama program, but instead issued a statement saying: “Boeing really regrets the loss of lives and will continue to work with communities, customers and the aviation industry to help with the process of healing.
“Boeing insurers are in talks with other insurers around the world, as is typical and usual in circumstances like this.”
The main insurer of Lion Air and Boeing is the British insurance company Global Aerospace.
Global Aerospace disputed the allegations, but declined to comment on the details due to the client’s confidentiality.
He said: “It is common for aviation insurers to have insured more than one party involved in some way in an accident.
“Global Aerospace, in accordance with industry best practices, strictly divides the responsibility of managing different clients to ensure that each is represented separately and that information is not shared inappropriately in the handling of any claim that may occur. ”
The company said it was a standard practice when claims were resolved to free airlines and aircraft manufacturers from future claims.
On July 3, Boeing announced that it would provide $ 100 million to help communities and families affected by the last two 737 Max accidents. The second was in Ethiopia in April, when 157 people died.
Family lawyers say they have not been given details about how that money would be used.