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Irish leasing firm lashes out at Boeing in US Max jet case

Timaero claims Boeing is attempting to 'forum shop' in wanting case moved

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Issues: A worker inspects a Boeing 737 Max aircraft at Boeing’s factory in Renton, Washington. Photo:Gary He/ Getty Images)

Issues: A worker inspects a Boeing 737 Max aircraft at Boeing’s factory in Renton, Washington. Photo:Gary He/ Getty Images)

Getty Images

Issues: A worker inspects a Boeing 737 Max aircraft at Boeing’s factory in Renton, Washington. Photo:Gary He/ Getty Images)

Dublin-based jet leasing firm Timaero has lashed out at Boeing's efforts to shift a $740m-plus case being taken against it by the Irish firm for late 737 Max deliveries from Chicago to Seattle.

"It is ironic Boeing - the world's largest aerospace company - argues it is inconvenient for its employee witnesses to fly to its world headquarters in Chicago," Timaero's lawyers said in court filings this week.

They added that it is "astonishing" that the jet maker is arguing that Illinois has no connection to the suit, given that its main offices are in Chicago.

Timaero Ireland signed an agreement with Boeing in January 2014 to buy 20 Max aircraft. In 2016, Timaero converted two Boeing 737-800 orders to Max orders. The firm is owned by controversial Russian state-owned development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB).

Max jets have been grounded all over the world since March last year following two fatal crashes linked to one of the aircraft's software systems.

Timaero was originally due to take delivery of four Max jets by early December, but had only received two aircraft out of its order. Timaero is understood to have made $316m (€284m) in advance payments to Boeing between November 2013 and the end of 2018.

Timaero has claimed Boeing's delivery delays are in breach of the aircraft delivery schedule agreed to by the pair and is the result of "Boeing's fault and negligence in designing the aircraft with a defective flight control system that it did not properly test and analyse".

Boeing hasn't made a full response yet to the claim. However, it has told the Illinois court that allegations made by the Irish lessor that it sold the leasing firm aircraft that it knew at the time were unsafe, with the intent to injure Timaero in its aircraft leasing business, are "wholly implausible and fatally vague".

Lawyers for the aircraft maker have sought to have the case transferred to Washington state, where Boeing has its major manufacturing facilities.

They said Chicago is "not a convenient forum for this dispute", given all of the witnesses and evidence are located in Washington.

But Timaero this week told the court Boeing is attempting to "forum shop" by trying to have the case moved to Seattle.

"Boeing has not and cannot meet its heavy burden of showing that the interest of justice and the convenience of parties and witnesses warrants transfer," lawyers for Timaero said in court documents.

They added: "Boeing's motion is not about convenience or the interest of justice - it is an improper attempt to forum shop."

Timaero noted that Boeing executives and senior management work in Chicago and reside there.

"Boeing's board of directors sit and meet in Chicago and approved the 737 Max design in Chicago," Timaero's lawyers said.

"Boeing's three most recent CEOs worked out of the Chicago headquarters when they were involved in the decision to develop the 737 Max."

Timaero also said that 200 cases related to the troubled Max jet have been filed against Boeing in Chicago, but claimed that the aircraft maker has not sought to have any of those cases transferred out of the jurisdiction.

"To the extent Boeing argues that Washington is more convenient for other witnesses, the location of Boeing's own employees and documents is entitled to no weight under the law," it has asserted.

Its lawyers added: "Timaero had two main contacts at Boeing when it was deciding whether to purchase 737 Max aircraft. One is still employed by Boeing. The other is no longer a Boeing employee and is located in Russia, not Washington."

Those two contacts are Alexander Basyuk, a former Boeing employee based in Moscow, and Jorge Molina Acosta, who still works with the company. Boeing hopes to have the 737 Max flying again by the summer in the US.

Irish Independent