Fam­i­lies mull law­suits over miss­ing Malaysian flight

Ad­vice on le­gal ac­tion be­ing sought from ex­perts in China and over­seas

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By JIN HAIX­ING and WANG WEN

Fam­i­lies of the Chi­nese pas­sen­gers on the miss­ing Malaysia Air­lines jet­liner are seek­ing ad­vice from do­mes­tic and over­seas le­gal ex­perts to pre­pare law­suits.

A com­mit­tee rep­re­sent­ing the fam­i­lies is in touch with the Ribbeck Law firm in Chicago about fil­ing a group law­suit against the air­line, ac­cord­ing to a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee who works in France but has re­turned to China be­cause his par­ents were on the plane.

The com­mit­tee was set up last week at Bei­jing’s Metropark Lido Ho­tel to rep­re­sent the in­ter­ests of rel­a­tives of the 154 Chi­nese pas­sen­gers on flight MH370.

The fam­i­lies are con­sid­er­ing hir­ing a for­eign law firm, but the com­mit­tee is still seek­ing opin­ions from all rel­a­tives, said the mem­ber, who de­clined to be named.

Ribbeck Law has sent lawyers and as­sis­tants to Malaysia to ar­range meet­ings with the pas­sen­gers’ fam­i­lies as more of them seek le­gal re­course for the loss of their loved ones, the firm said on Thurs­day.

It said it ex­pects to rep­re­sent the fam­i­lies of more than half the pas­sen­gers in a law­suit against the air­line and Boe­ing Co, the man­u­fac­turer of the air­craft, al­leg­ing the plane crashed due to me­chan­i­cal fail­ure.

Ribbeck Law has filed a pe­ti­tion for dis­cov­ery against Boe­ing and Malaysian Air­lines in Cook County Cir­cuit Court in Illi­nois, United States. The pe­ti­tion is aimed at se­cur­ing ev­i­dence of pos­si­ble de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing de­fects that may have con­trib­uted to the plane crash­ing, the firm said.

The law­suit, which will be filed soon, will seek mil­lions of dol­lars in com­pen­sa­tion for each pas­sen­ger and ask Boe­ing to re­pair its en­tire 777 fleet, ac­cord­ing to the firm, which is also rep­re­sent­ing 115 pas­sen­gers on an Asiana Air­lines flight that crashed in San Fran­cisco in July, killing three teenage Chi­nese stu­dents.

But Robert F. Hedrick of Avi­a­tion Law Group PS in the US said there is typ­i­cally at least one or two years be­fore le­gal ac­tions must be filed in the US. “Depend­ing on the ev­i­dence that ul­ti­mately comes to light, many claims could set­tle with­out a law­suit. There will be plenty of time to pur­sue le­gal claims,” he said.

Zhang Qi­huai, vice-pres­i­dent of avi­a­tion law re­search for the China Law So­ci­ety and also an ex­pe­ri­enced lawyer on avi­a­tion mat­ters, said some fam­i­lies had talked to him about pos­si­ble law­suits.

An in­ter­na­tional search oper­a­tion has been tak­ing place in the sus­pected crash area for the past five days.

A Thai satel­lite has lo­cated about 300 ob­jects float­ing in the ocean, and Tokyo also said a Ja­panese satel­lite has spotted sus­pi­cious ob­jects pos­si­bly re­lated to the miss­ing plane. How­ever, none of the ob­jects has been found or con­firmed to be de­bris from the plane.

Zhang said that un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances the fam­i­lies could file a law­suit af­ter con­clu­sions are made about a crash. But as the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing flight MH370 are so spe­cial and as Malaysia has an­nounced that the plane crashed, the fam­i­lies can turn to the courts now.

De­fen­dants could in­clude the air­line, air­craft builder and en­gine man­u­fac­tur­ers.

The fam­i­lies can choose dif­fer­ent coun­tries in which to file suits, such as the des­ti­na­tion of the flight, the air­line’s home coun­try and that of the air­craft man­u­fac­turer, said Zhang, in­di­cat­ing China, the US, Malaysia and pos­si­bly Aus­tralia, if the air­craft is found in its ter­ri­tory.

He said the amount of com­pen­sa­tion varies from coun­try to coun­try.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the US has the high­est com­pen­sa­tion pay­ment, at about $5 mil­lion per pas­sen­ger, while the fig­ure in China is be­tween 1.2 mil­lion ($193,000) and 1.5 mil­lion yuan. In Malaysia, it is be­tween $300,000 and $500,000, he said.

But law­suit costs in dif­fer­ent coun­tries also vary, Zhang said.

Liu Weimin, di­rec­tor of the Civil Avi­a­tion Man­age­ment In­sti­tu­tion of China’s Avi­a­tion Law Re­search Cen­ter, said the fam­i­lies can ask for more if the air­line was re­spon­si­ble for a crash. Con­tact the writ­ers at jin­haix­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn and wang­wen@chi­nadaily.com. cn. Reuters and Chen Jia con­trib­uted to this story.

XIN­HUA

The Chi­nese ship Dong­hai­jiu101 heads for the east­ern part of the south­ern In­dian Ocean where Aus­tralia spotted float­ing ob­jects that might be re­lated to the miss­ing Malaysia Air­lines flight MH370. It’s one of the three ships head­ing for the wa­ters. Five Chi­nese ves­sels have ar­rived in the search area, the Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry said on Thurs­day. Syn­ergy be­tween Chi­nese air and sea search ef­forts will be strength­ened as more ves­sels ar­rive in the wa­ters.

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