Boeing’s Lion Air Crash Lawsuits May Move to Indonesia


(Bloomberg) -- A federal judge in Chicago signaled he may let dozens of lawsuits against Boeing Co. over the crash of a Lion Air plane be resolved in Indonesia.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin said during a status hearing Thursday that U.S. Supreme Court and appellate court rulings appear to support the idea of a venue change.

“The law is pretty favorable to move this case,” Durkin said. “I haven’t decided the motion, but plaintiffs” should read case law that set precedent on when and whether similar cases can be moved to a foreign jurisdiction, he said.

The lawsuits stem from a crash that killed 189 people in Indonesia shortly after takeoff Oct. 29, 2018. The company also faces claims from an Ethiopian Airlines crash in Africa, which killed killed 157 in March.

Where the claims are litigated will influence settlement talks, which have been taking place with a mediator since July, according to the judge. Durkin said the case can’t move forward until he rules on the venue.

Boeing has said in court filings it plans to make a formal request for a change of venue, though one has yet to be made. The company argues that because the aircraft was maintained in Indonesia and piloted by Indonesians, the cases belong there.

Almost 60 lawsuits have been filed on behalf of 153 family members or estates of the Lion Air victims. Their attorneys have argued that because the aircraft was manufactured in the U.S., the cases should be litigated in Chicago, where Boeing is based.

So far, 19 cases have settled, Boeing lawyer Mack Schultz Jr. told the judge, adding that the company is committed to negotiating in good faith.

A status hearing was scheduled for Nov. 21.

The judge also ordered Boeing to hand over documents the company already produced for plaintiffs in the Ethiopian case.

The case is in re: Lion Air Flight JT 610 crash, 18-cv-7686, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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