On June 27, 2019, lawyers from Clifford Law Offices, P.C. and Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP appeared before Judge Luis Alonso at the initial In re: Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 status conference. Bob Clifford primarily spoke on behalf of all the plaintiffs and their attorneys. Several major national media outlets reporting on the case attended the hearing and took note of Bob’s statements on behalf of the victims.
The primary subject under discussion was the nature and extent of permissible discovery in the coming months. Typically, the courts require parties to exchange all information and documents that are relevant to the parties’ claims and defenses. Boeing’s attorney told the court that Boeing wants to begin settlement discussions, and he attempted to persuade Judge Alonso to limit this discovery to damages information about the plaintiffs only, without any liability discovery about Boeing. Bob stated some of the plaintiffs may have no objection to voluntary mediation at this stage, but others may want more information before they agree to a settlement because “more and more information is coming to light every day” as cited by Reuters. Mr. Clifford explained that there are many families who will not even consider talking about resolution until there is some transparency about “what Boeing knew, when they knew it, what they did with the information and what they are doing to make sure something like this can’t happen again in future.” He told the judge some plaintiffs may need that information before they make any decisions regarding mediation and settlement.
Judge Alonso listened to both sides before agreeing with the plaintiffs and concluded that any party seeking resolution would be at a disadvantage if they do not have the documents and information they need. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Judge Alonso told the parties “it’s not a good start to settlement if one party has a perceived need for additional information and they’re not satisfied with that information.” He ordered that all parties are required to exchange the information they have in accordance with the plaintiffs’ proposed schedule. Accordingly, the deadline for this initial exchange is September 3, 2019 with all the facts to be completely disclosed and discovered by May 1, 2020. The next court status date will be September 17, 2019.