Boeing Argues 737 Max Passengers Didn't Feel Pain During Crash: Why 200 Milliseconds Matter In Lawsuit

Zinger Key Points
  • Boeing’s lawyers argue that they only have to pay for “conscious pain and suffering.”
  • Lawyers cited an expert who said that “the human brain cannot process pain faster than approximately 200 milliseconds.”

Boeing Co BA is in court over the compensation it owes to the families of those who died in a 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia in 2019. The key issue is whether the passengers experienced any pain and suffering before they died.

The crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 killed all 157 people on board when it plunged into the ground at about 700 miles per hour shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa. It was one of two fatal crashes involving Boeing’s 737 MAX jets that led to its worldwide grounding for nearly two years.

Boeing has settled most of the civil lawsuits from both crashes, but some families of the Ethiopian Airlines victims are seeking additional damages for the emotional and physical distress their loved ones may have endured during the flight.

Boeing’s lawyers argue that under Illinois state law, where Boeing was based at the time of the crash, they only have to pay for “conscious pain and suffering” if there is evidence that it occurred, according to Business Insider. The lawyers claim that there is no such evidence because death was too quick for the passengers to feel any pain.

Read also: Boeing Hosted Its First Investor Day In 4 Years After 737 MAX Debacle: What Do Analysts Think?

Company attorneys cited an expert who said that “the human brain cannot process pain faster than approximately 200 milliseconds” and that “the impact forces were so great that death would have been instantaneous.”

They also dismiss any claims based on what passengers might have felt during the flight as “speculative.”

The lawyers for the families counter that Boeing’s argument is “contrary to Illinois law and defies common sense and fundamental fairness.” Families said that there is evidence of pain and suffering based on eyewitness accounts, cockpit recordings, flight data, medical reports, and expert opinions.

The families said that passengers suffered from fear, anxiety, nausea, chest pain, hypoxia, loss of consciousness, and other injuries as they experienced extreme changes in altitude, speed, and direction during the flight. They also said that passengers knew they were going to die as they heard alarms, saw smoke, smelled fuel, and braced for impact.

The judge will have to decide whether Illinois law allows for pre-impact damages and whether there is enough evidence to support them. The outcome could affect how much Boeing has to pay to compensate the families of those who lost their lives.

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