The first of the expected lawsuits against Boeing Co, over the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crash that killed 157 people, was filed in U.S. federal court on Thursday .
The suit was filed in Chicago federal court by the family of Jackson Musoni, a 31-year-old citizen of Rwanda, who was working for UNHCR in East Darfur, at the time of his death in the crash.
The suit filed by Musoni’s three minor children, who reside in Belgium as Dutch citizens, alleges that Boeing, which manufactures the 737 MAX, had defectively designed the automated flight control system.
The 737 MAX planes were grounded worldwide following the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, which came five months after a Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people.
Boeing said on Wednesday it had reprogrammed software on its 737 MAX to prevent erroneous data from triggering an anti-stall system that is facing mounting scrutiny in the wake of two deadly nose-down crashes in the past five months.
The planemaker said the anti-stall system, which is believed to have repeatedly forced the nose lower in at least one of the accidents, in Indonesia last October, would only do so once per event after sensing a problem, giving pilots more control.
The crash of Boeing’s passenger jet in Ethiopia raised the chances that families of the victims, even non-U.S. residents, will be able to sue in U.S. courts, where payouts are much larger than in other countries, some legal experts have said.
The lawsuit says Boeing failed to warn the public, airlines and pilots of the airplane’s allegedly erroneous sensors, causing the aircraft to dive automatically and uncontrollably.
Ethiopian officials and some analysts have said the Ethiopian Airlines jet behaved in a similar pattern as the 737 MAX involved in October’s Lion Air disaster. The investigation into the March crash, which is being led by the Ethiopian Transport Ministry, is still at an early stage.
In a tribute after the crash, the UNHCR described Musoni as jovial, fun, down to earth, and always ready to go the extra mile to help those in a time of great need.
He joined UNHCR in 2014, in Butare, Rwanda.
According to UNHCR, Musoni’s colleagues at the field office in Huye, in the south of the country, remember him as passionate about his work and always ready to go above and beyond, particularly to help children.
“One time he came across an unaccompanied minor and took on that case, taking the child’s hand and going to the office to make sure colleagues prioritised the registration,” recalls Marie Claire Umutoniwase, a programme associate who worked with Jackson three years ago.
“He was very down to earth and he talked to everyone, from the most senior officials to the support staff. He interacted with everyone in a fun and jovial way,” she says, noting that he was also “very ambitious, trying to learn as much as possible from everyone.”
Working in Rwanda as a Senior Protection Assistant, Jackson received and counselled Congolese refugees arriving at Kigeme camp, where he identified and supported those who were especially vulnerable, among them children and survivors of sexual violence. He was recognized for his high level of integrity, respect and professionalism.
“Jackson was a genuine humanitarian … whose footprints will remain forever.”
Since late 2017, Jackson had been working as Associate Field Coordinator in Sudan’s East Darfur, where his colleagues recall how he started each day greeting everyone from the security guards at the gate up to staff and visitors throughout the field office.
“Every single person in East Darfur operation believes that the sudden and unexpected death of Jackson has left a vacuum that can never be filled,” his colleague Mohamed Ali says.
“Every agency considers that Jackson was part of their team and Jackson, by and large, was a genuine humanitarian worker, whose footprints will remain forever in the East Darfur operation.”
From 2011 to 2014, Jackson worked for the Rwandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.
A graduate in international relations from the University of Johannesburg, in South Africa, Jackson also had a Master’s degree in law and political science from Mount Kenya University in Kigali, Rwanda.
His friend and colleague Steve Nzaramba remembers his warmth and enthusiasm, and his skill on the basketball court in Rwanda.
“He was an energetic and vibrant person … who almost always had a smile on his face and just a wonderful human being,” he says. “He will be greatly missed. The court will never be the same without him.”
The close family he left behind include three children, aged eight, five and four.