Family gets Sh335m for Ethiopian Airlines crash

By Noel Wandera
Wednesday, December 16th, 2020
From left: Ribbeck Law Chartered Founding Partner Manuel von Ribbeck, Igeria & Ngugi Advocates Head of Litigation David Njoroge and Global Managing Director of Ribbeck Law Chartered’s Air Disasters Global Insurance Claims Deon Botha at a past event. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

After almost two years of waiting for compensation from aeroplane manufacturer Boeing following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, the first of 32 Kenyan families whose relatives were involved in the air accident has been paid $3 million (Sh334.8 million).

“All the money is already with the family. We are pursuing the other 31 cases,” said a source at the heart of the issue, who requested the Business Hub not publish the beneficiary’s name because of a confidentiality clause, and the risk of jeopardising the remaining cases.

The payment came after dozens of lawsuits were filed in US Federal Court in Chicago seeking compensation for the victim’s families from the giant American airplane maker Boeing.

According to Bloomberg the full settlement is estimated at a record-breaking $1 billion (Sh111.6 billion) as compensation for the victims of the two fatal crashes involving the same Boeing 737 Max 8 model plane.

This is the first Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 case to settle from dozens of lawsuits filed in a US Federal Court in Chicago against Boeing by Ribbeck Law Chartered, on behalf of the victims’ families.

Same model

The Ethiopian Airlines jet headed for Nairobi, Kenya crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport in March 2019, killing all 149 on board.

Another plane of the same model was involved in a crash less than five months earlier, when a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea near Indonesia with nearly 190 people on board.

The final report on the Boeing 737 MAX, released in September by a legislative committee in the United States, found “repeated and serious failures” by Boeing and identified the key factors that contributed to the Boeing 737 MAX crash, including design flaws, profit and production priorities at the expense of safety.

Manuel von Ribbeck, Ribbeck Law Chartered Founding Partner, has been seeking “reasonable and fair compensation” in the courts in Chicago for the families of the victims of these tragedies. 

“We sought and asked for the largest amount possible to be paid as compensation to the families we represent.”

Commenting on the compensation, Deon Botha of Ribbeck Law Chartered said the law firm believes Boeing should pay a fair and reasonable amount to all families regardless as to where they are from.

Von Ribbeck said the settlement payments achieved by Ribbeck Law Chartered on behalf of the first Kenyan victim’s family has spared the family years of litigation.“It is important to note however that no amount of money in the world will bring our clients’ beloved family members back,” he added in a statement.

When asked about the impact of paying $1 billion dollars in compensation will have on the Boeing Company, von Ribbeck remarked: “The Boeing company should not be greatly affected by it.” 

“Most of the payments will be made by their insurance and reinsurance companies and as stated by Wall Street firms, Boeing can afford that cost: Boeing has posted record revenues of $101 billion last year and $10.6 billion in profits.”

In addition, Boeing has established a fund to help the communities of the families affected by the crashes. 

Ribbeck Law’s clients received grant funds from Boeing to improve their communities. One such example is a project initiated at the request of a Kenyan family. 

“The project will bring water and solar energy to their community,” stated Monica Kelly of Ribbeck Law Chartered. 

“It was a group effort with the Kenyan family we represent and David Njoroge, Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution at Igeria & Ngugi Advocates.” 

Add classrooms

Ribbeck Law Chartered’s clients will also use the approved grant to renovate and add classrooms, restrooms and a community hall for their local high school and church. 

“Our partnership allowed us to finalise the mediation process in record time, achieving a fair and reasonable settlement in only 18 months,” Njoroge added. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted its ban on Boeing’s 737 Max, allowing the plane to return to the skies after being grounded for more than 20 months following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.