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First lawsuit filed over MH370 disappearance

By Agencies in Kuala Lumpur | China Daily | Updated: 2014-11-01 07:42

Two sons of passenger accuse officials of gross negligence, breach of duty

A Malaysian family has sued the government and its beleaguered national air carrier for negligence in the mysterious disappearance of Flight MH370, in what is believed to be the first lawsuit filed over the disaster.

The suit was filed on Friday at the Kuala Lumpur High Court by lawyers on behalf of the two sons of Jee Jing Hang, who was on board the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight.

Jee Kinson, 13, and Jee Kinland, 11, accused the civil aviation department in the lawsuit of negligence for failing to try to contact the plane within a reasonable time after it dropped off the radar while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 with 239 people on board.

The suit alleges that the airline was negligent and failed to take all due measures to ensure a safe flight. It names the directors of civil aviation and immigration, the country's air force chief and the government as respondents, alleging they were guilty of gross negligence and breach of duty.

"We have waited for eight months," the boys' lawyer, Arunan Selvaraj, said. "After speaking to various experts, we believe we have sufficient evidence for a strong case. A big plane missing in this age of technology is really unacceptable.

"Our clients are after the truth. We have confidence in our judiciary system that this suit will be heard and dealt with fairly."

Selvaraj said it was "up to the court" to determine the amount of any damages.

"The question is, could we have salvaged the situation if action was taken earlier?" Selvaraj said. "We want accountability."

Aviation lawyer Jeremy Joseph said there is certainly a case for the authorities to answer, but it will not be easy.

"It's going to be quite challenging, as the plane has not been recovered. Without knowing the cause of the incident, it's all very speculative," he said.

Joseph said the Malaysian civil courts are unlikely to award large payouts. In the case of the airline, he said the court could follow the compensation amount of $175,000 set under the Montreal Convention. It is an unprecedented case, and the result will depend on the evidence given in court and the culpability of the parties.

The disappearance of MH370 remains a mystery. Malaysia's government believes the flight diverted to the far southern Indian Ocean, citing sketchy satellite data, but no trace has been found despite an extensive search.

Neither the government nor the airline has revealed any results from investigations launched in the aftermath of the tragedy, and consistently stress that only the recovery of the lost Boeing 777 will provide full answers.

The plane is believed to have gone down in a remote patch of the Indian Ocean, where a search is continuing. No debris from the plane has been found.

Australian officials, who are coordinating the search, have said the hunt for the plane could take another year.


(China Daily 11/01/2014 page10)

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