SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Boeing has asked a federal judge to limit the amount of information it is required to provide relatives of those killed in the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 until formal settlement talks are finished.
But attorneys representing family members say their clients need more information about how their loved ones died before they can resolve dozens of wrongful-death suits.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he would rule by Dec. 14.
The Seattle Times reported Saturday that Brian Panish, an attorney representing some of the families, accused Boeing of stonewalling, saying, ''the defendants don't want any discovery to occur.''
The Jan. 31, 2000, crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 killed all 88 passengers and crew members. Five of the passengers were from Alaska.
The MD-83 crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Southern California on en route from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to San Francisco and Seattle.
Federal safety investigators have attributed the crash to the failure of a flight-control mechanism. But they are still examining Alaska Airlines' maintenance practices and the design of the plane.
Alaska has accepted liability for the crash, but not responsibility. The airline said it shouldn't have to produce more information because it's offered to pay damages to the families.
This case is the latest in a series of legal wrangling involving the crash. Sixty-five cases are pending and 23 have been settled. Breyer appointed a mediator in October to conduct settlement talks, which will begin in December.
Breyer said at the hearing he understands why Boeing wants to limit pretrial depositions of its employees because of the high cost of conducting such interviews. He told attorneys for the families to specify their reasons for questioning each witness.
But Breyer added that the families have a compelling interest in getting more information for use in mediation. And he noted economic damages would never compensate them for their losses.
Boeing's lead attorney, Keith Gerrard, said suits arising from major plane crashes are ultimately settled.
But attorneys for some of the families said a trial might be needed because their clients want answers.
Gerrard also said some Boeing employees can't talk until the National Transportation Safety Board finishes its investigation of the crash and holds a public hearing.
Breyer said he can't wait for the NTSB and noted its workload has increased since the crash of an American Airlines jetliner in New York this past week.
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