Back to Jakarta. This could be a book title. Instead, it’s a work trip to one of my favorite places in the world.
Beyond Jakarta could be another book title. Instead, it’s our itinerary. We have clients on Borneo and Bangka Islands as well as Jakarta. Working for justice sometimes requires travel.
After our success settling cases for 46 victim families in the aviation disaster of Lion Air JT 610, we signed up 17 victim families so far in the crash of Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ 182. While the circumstances of SJ 182 crash are different than JT 610, the common theme is a Boeing plane and insufficient warnings from Boeing about the dangers.
I filed the complaint two weeks ago and it was covered by Q13 TV, the Seattle Times, Fox Business News, KOMO TV, and numerous other outlets. The Tacoma Weekly ran the longest story, which is posted below unexpurgated. They used an old photo of me so you might want to click the Tacoma Weekly story for a semi-amusing flash to the past.
Today, April 15, the Herrmann Law Group filed a lawsuit against The Boeing Company on behalf of the families of 16 victims who died Jan. 9, 2021, in the crash of Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ 182.
All 62 people on board the Boeing 737-500 died, including 12 crew members and seven children.
As the plane was ascending from Soekarno–Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, the left engine throttle moved back while the right lever did not, suggesting the auto-throttle was stuck, according to the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee (“KNKT”). This unequal thrust caused a roll and dive. The plane dropped 10,900 feet in 22 seconds, a screaming descent that ended in the Java Sea.
Herrmann Law Group’s complaint, which was filed in King County Superior Court, contends Boeing equipment failed. Further, Boeing failed to warn airlines and other users about defects in the auto-throttle and the dangers of parking a plane for several months.
On March 23, 2020, Sriwijaya Air’s 26-year-old Boeing plane was parked due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of other 737 planes around the world were parked as well. This created an unprecedented challenge for maintenance. As the pandemic subsides, these parked planes will be going back into service to carry millions of passengers around the world.
Recognizing the potential danger, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) issued an emergency airworthiness directive for Boeing 737 planes on July 24, 2020. The FAA warned of possible corrosion from parking a plane for more than seven days and ordered U.S. airlines flying Boeing 737 airplanes to not operate the planes until inspected and any corroded valves were replaced.
After being certified by the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation, the Sriwijaya plane resumed passenger service on December 19, 2020. In the three weeks before the crash, the plane rapidly logged 132 flights.
In addition to problems caused by extended parking of the plane, and insufficient warnings and instructions from Boeing, the Boeing auto-throttle computer software has a history of significant issues.
In 2001, the FAA became aware of a design defect and ordered operators of the 737 aircraft to replace the automatic throttle computer after reports of unequal thrust, which could cause loss of control of the aircraft.
Six years later, in two separate flights, the auto-throttle on 737 aircraft inexplicably shut off as planes were approaching airports to land. In both instances, pilots were able to recover and avoided accidents. However, in 2009, a Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed on its approach to Amsterdam Airport when the auto-throttle malfunctioned. Nine people died.
Four years later, on July 6, 2013, a Boeing 777 crashed on its approach to San Francisco International Airport when the auto-throttle failed to maintain speed. Three people died. The National Transportation and Safety Board investigators found Boeing failed to make provide clear warnings and instructions regarding the auto-throttle.
In the days leading up to the fatal flight of SJ 182, pilots reported problems with the auto-throttle. KNKT investigator Nurcayho Utomo said, “There was a report of malfunction on the auto-throttle a couple of days before to the technician in the maintenance log, but we do not know what kind of problem.”
Both the Flight Data Recorder (“FDR”) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (“CVR”) have been recovered and are being analyzed by the KNKT.
As an airplane manufacturer, Boeing has a continuing duty to warn and instruct airlines on dangers the manufacturer knows of or should know of regarding the plane.
“This is a major public safety issue,” said Lindquist. “Thousands of planes were parked during the pandemic and they are coming back into service for millions of passengers. Commercial jets are not usually parked for long periods. This unprecedented situation requires the parked planes be inspected, fixed as necessary, and certified as safe.”
In the two crashes of the Boeing 737 Max, first in Indonesia in 2018 and then in Ethiopia in 2019, a software program, “MCAS,” was to blame. Sriwijaya’s Boeing 737-500 was not equipped with the MCAS. There are similarities between those lawsuits and the SJ 182 suit, however, as Boeing is again charged with failing to give adequate warnings and notice regarding known dangers.
“Years of experience representing hundreds of victims has shown me a common thread in most air disaster cases,” said Charles Herrmann, the principle of Herrmann Law. “Generating profits in a fiercely competitive market too often involves short-cutting safety measures. We are prepared to vigorously fight this case all the way, including to trial. Our clients are fortunate to have a highly experienced and accomplished trial attorney like Mark Lindquist working the case.”
Lindquist, the former elected Prosecutor of Pierce County, has tried several high-profile cases in Washington State, including the murder of Special Olympian Kimmie Daly and the Tacoma Mall shooting. He also filed a lawsuit against Big Pharma. In January of 2019, he joined Herrmann Law Group and litigated the Lion Air cases with Charles Herrmann.
The Tacoma Weekly ran a cover story on Lindquist’s successful transition to private practice and his public safety legacy as Prosecutor.