Boeing Claims MAX Victims Didn’t Suffer Any Pain


Boeing lawyers say the company shouldn’t have to pay for the pain suffered by victims of two 737 MAX crashes because they couldn’t possibly have felt any pain. The Wall Street Journal is reporting Boeing’s legal team says the law in Illinois, where this case is being heard, doesn’t allow their families to be paid for pain and suffering to be compensated because there essentially was none. Boeing consulted experts who determined there wasn’t enough time in the 700-MPH impact for the human brain to process pain signals.

Boeing has already admitted fault for the crash and an earlier one in Indonesia which together killed 346 occupants of the two brand-new aircraft. These filings are an attempt to have the court limit what evidence a jury could consider when awarding damages. The families want the jury to be able to consider the effect of the six minutes of climbs and dives that preceded the crash. The WSJ says the Boeing claims allowing that evidence would “prejudice and confuse” jurors, potentially leading them to award amounts “tantamount to punitive damages.”

“Jurors would inevitably sympathize with testimony about the passengers’ alleged fear of impending death and imagine themselves in the passengers’ shoes,” the WSJ quoted Boeing attorneys as writing in one filing. Eliminating pain and suffering from the compensation calculation leaves only grief and loss by the plaintiffs to be considered by the jury. The difference could amount to millions of dollars per victim. The plaintiffs’ lawyers said the 157 passengers and crew “undeniably suffered horrific emotional distress, pain and suffering, and physical impact/injury while they endured extreme G-forces, braced for impact, knew the airplane was malfunctioning, and ultimately plummeted nose-down to the ground at terrifying speed.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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    • …but legally correct.
      Adding pain and suffering to the compensation request is disingenuous at best, a lawyers way to make more money for themselves at worst. Adding pain and suffering to the quickest form of death ever known only helps the prosecuting lawyers.

      • The mental anguish associated of impending death definitely, and rightly, qualifies as compensable. The approach used by these lawyers is legally, factually, and not to mention morally, bankrupt – lawyer.

        • OK, if so then a fair assessment would be 20 seconds/20 years. If the normal 20 year pain settlement is used then 20/6.312e+8 would be the fair and equitable amount added on. Since it’s less than a penny (and lawyers fees add up) then it’s NOT reasonable to add in a pain/suffering to a summary class action lawsuit. Q.E.D.

    • Agree that the passengers may experienced some seconds of suffering when they felt the plane heading to the ground. The question is how much will be the “cost” of that suffering for being “compensated” to the families of those unfortunate passengers. Quite a different thing is the lost of incoming suffered by the families of them and the “compensation” of sadness those families experienced.
      These two things must be “compensated”. If not, that’s immoral.

  1. Did not feel pain – that’s what some people say about fish.

    If “pain and suffering” is not allowed in the “compensation calculation”, the filing by Boeing’s lawyers should be introduced as evidence so the jury knows why.

    • If a fish hits the water at 700 mph, then no – it probably feels no pain.

      Same with the passengers. Mental anguish prior to the impact? You bet. But I didn’t see any counter-arguments to Beeing’s claim that “there wasn’t enough time in the 700-MPH impact for the human brain to process pain signals.”

      Pain and suffering just wasn’t an option.

      • The counter argument against “no pain and suffering” is contained in your submission, to wit – “mental anguish prior to the impact,” which counts in our law as “pain and suffering” – lawyer.

        • I am not a lawyer, but if they count as the same, why should they be further enumerated? Is that not redundant?

          • Mental anguish, the specific case of mental or emotional injury absent physical injury, is subsumed under the damage category, “pain and suffering.” There is really no need for numbering (enumerating) them.

  2. Neither boeing nor it’s liability carriers’ lawyers have souls – former aviation liability carrier attorney.

  3. Just another example as to why Dante put lawyers on the lowest circle of the infernal regions…and is the same profession that is drawn to politics. Any wonder why we’re in the shape we are in?

    I can not even imagine, in my worst nightmare, what it would have been like to be strapped into a seat on one of those flights, knowing viscerally that my life was reaching its end. It comes to us soon enough…but watching it unfold because of a known issue (not that we’d have known…but there was some faceless someone who did) makes it even more terrifying.

    It’s the same cold-hearted ‘stockholder return on investment’ mentality that let Ford justify continuing to produce the Pinto because the cost of redesign etc. was more than the potential lawsuit payouts from barbecued drivers when the gas tank would explode.

    Just plain despicable and beneath contempt.

  4. I could possibly agree with this morally bankrupt attempt, if the two airplanes were full of soulless lawyers.

  5. My dictionary defines “pain” as,

    Noun – highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury
    Verb – cause mental or physical pain to

    Knowing you’re about to die a violent death is going to bring about mental pain I would suggest, to the point of losing some bodily functions – heart attack, bowels, urinary, brought about by stress.