Relatives of passengers killed in an Ethiopian Airlines crash in Lebanon earlier this year have filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit in a U.S. court against plane-maker Boeing, their attorney said Tuesday.
"We have filed a lawsuit in Chicago, Illinois, against the Boeing company," Manuel von Ribbeck, of the U.S. firm Ribbeck law, told AFP.
An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 went down minutes after taking off from Beirut in bad weather on January 25, killing 83 passengers and seven crew. The cause of the crash has not been announced.
Ribbeck said initial analysis of data gathered so far showed a severe mechanical failure was probably behind the tragedy.
But Lebanese Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi has said data recovered from the black box showed all instruments were working well until the plane plunged into the Mediterranean in a fierce storm.
"Our aviation expert believes that simple pilot error could not have brought down the plane," Ribbeck said.
"It had to be a severe mechanical failure which could be caused by a design or manufacturing defect or a maintenance problem," he added.
Lebanese officials have ruled out sabotage as the likely cause of the crash, but Ethiopian Airlines has said it is looking into all possibilities, including foul play.
Ribbeck and two other attorneys from his firm as well as an aviation expert are currently in Beirut meeting with victims' families.
Ribbeck said his firm had met with at least 30 families in Beirut and would be representing many of them. Another team of attorneys from the firm was also meeting with families in Ethiopia, he added.
He slammed as insufficient the reported 20,000 dollars in compensation per passenger currently being offered by the airline's insurance companies and said he would be seeking upwards of a million dollars for each victim represented by his firm.
"There is no reason why the same insurance companies pay 10 times more elsewhere than what they are offering in Lebanon," he said.
"There is no reason why a Lebanese is worth less."
He said the legal case would likely settle quickly if families are given proper compensation but could drag on for at least two years if a trial is held.
Ribbeck added that Boeing had been very cooperative in similar cases his firm had handled in the past.
Officials at Boeing in Chicago, where the U.S. aviation giant is headquartered, declined comment on the lawsuit.
"Boeing extends its deep condolences to the families and friends of those lost in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 in Lebanon," company spokesman Fakher Daghestani told AFP in a statement.