The family of an American woman killed when a Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner crashed in a field in Ethiopia last month sued the aircraft manufacturer Thursday, their attorneys said. They also plan to file a claim against the Federal Aviation Administration.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Chicago, where Boeing is headquartered, on behalf of the family of Samya Stumo, 24, who was on a work assignment in Africa when the Ethiopian Airlines jet went down March 10 shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa.
Stumo, a health-care analyst with a Washington-based global health organization was among the 157 people killed in the crash — the second deadly incident involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 in a five-month period.
Earlier Thursday, Ethiopian authorities urged Boeing to review its flight control system for the 737 Max 8, which has been grounded and come under intense scrutiny since the two crashes. A preliminary investigative report, also released Thursday, said the pilots of Flight 302 repeatedly performed all the procedures recommended by Boeing in an attempt to save the aircraft, but could not regain control.
The lawsuit alleges negligence, as well as 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.”
The investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines crash points to fatal flaws in an anti-stall system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.
Investigators believe MCAS also contributed to an Oct. 29 crash in Indonesia, where they said erroneous data from an outside sensor led the MCAS system to force the nose of the plane down repeatedly. In that case, pilots were also unable to regain control and prevent disaster, and the Lion Air flight eventually plunged into the Java Sea, killing 189 people.
The lawsuit filed Thursday also cites Rosemount Aerospace, which manufactured the “angle of attack” sensor, and Ethiopian Airlines.
More than 370 of the 737 Max jetliners remain grounded worldwide, while multiple federal investigations are underway, looking into the aircraft itself and the federal certification process.
“This crash should never have happened,” said Robert A. Clifford, one of the attorneys representing the family. “The shortcuts and greed of Boeing and others will be proven in the ensuing lawsuits as well as the utter disregard of the passengers they were to protect that could have avoided this tragic crash.”
While this is believed to be the first lawsuit on behalf of an American family, the first U.S. claim tied to the crash was made last week on behalf of the family of Jackson Musoni, a United Nations employee also killed in the crash.
More than 30 relatives of those who died in the Lion Air crash have also sued Boeing and more lawsuits are expected, several aviation attorneys said. In the most recent claims tied to Lion Air, the families allege that Boeing failed to warn pilots and airlines about the MCAS problem on the Max aircraft. They also point to flaws in the certification process of the jetliner.
Stumo was a great-niece of Ralph Nader, a consumer rights advocate and former presidential candidate. Nader has called Washington’s relationship with Boeing too cozy and urged for a organization to defend passengers’ rights.
“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 joined Stumo’s parents Michael Stumo and Nadia Milleron, both attorneys, in announcing the lawsuit Thursday in Chicago.
“Samya was a fearless, radiant 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.”
Stumo grew up in Sheffield, Mass., and graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2015. She completed a master’s program on global health at the University of Copenhagen last year before joining a team working to increase affordable health care across Africa and Asia with Washington-based ThinkWell, a global health organization. She had been hired in January and was on her first assignment with stops in Kenya and Uganda, according to her obituary.
In her work profile, Stumo said she joined ThinkWell “because I am passionate about resolving disconnects between policy and practice, making health care people-centered by nature, and inspired to impact change while rejecting the status quo in global health and development.”