By Amanda Bronstad | September 17, 2019
Podhurst Orseck’s Steven Marks and two other attorneys with extensive experience in airline crash lawsuits will lead nearly 100 cases filed over the Ethiopian Airlines crash that led The Boeing Co. to ground its 737 Max 8 aircraft.
At a hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso of the Northern District of Illinois said he would grant the plaintiffs’ motion to appoint Bob Clifford of Chicago’s Clifford Law Offices as lead counsel, according to Clifford. The judge also approved Marks of Miami and Justin Green of Kreindler & Kreindler in New York to lead the plaintiffs executive committee.
Clifford, whose previous cases include negotiating a $1.2 billion settlement for those with property damages from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, said the leadership team is considering adding more law firms in the coming days to the executive committee as well as a planned steering committee.
“That is under discussion as we speak,” Clifford said. “Anyone who steps up and is worthy and willing to serve and has something to add to the effort and discussion would likely be put on the steering committee.”
The leadership appointments set the stage for discovery to go forward even as Boeing has agreed to mediate lawsuits brought over last year’s crash of Lion Air, which killed 189 people on another 737 Max 8 aircraft over Indonesia.
Boeing has projected the Max 8 could be flying again in the fourth quarter, but regulators across the globe have given no timetable. Over the summer, Boeing announced it would pay $100 million to community groups and nonprofits to assist families of the victims of both Max 8 crashes.
The March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 killed 157 people, but the discovery focuses on what Boeing knew following the Lion Air crash, Clifford said. He said the lawyers are working with Boeing on a protective order to be followed by executive depositions.
Marks, who will be in charge of legal issues, handled lawsuits over the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared over the Indian Ocean in 2014, the 2015 crash of a Germanwings aircraft over France, the ValuJet crash in the Everglades in 1996 and others dating back to 1985.
Marks did not respond to a request for comment. He brought a motion Friday to appoint the leadership team plus 10 other attorneys from the three firms to serve on the executive committee. One of them, Clifford associate Tracy Brammeier, would serve as liaison counsel.
Green will be in charge of discovery. His previous cases include representing victims of the Asiana Airlines crash in 2013 at San Francisco International Airport and the Malaysia Airlines jet disappearance.
“The first order of business is to examine the many thousands of pages of documents Boeing will produce during the coming weeks,” Green wrote in an email. “These will be internal Boeing documents, including safety analyses and communications.”
Alonso set the next hearing for Nov. 21.