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Malaysia Air and Ukraine May Both Be Sued for Downed Jet


Airline could be forced to pay millions to victims’ families due to Montreal Convention rules.

Malaysia Airlines could be forced to pay millions of dollars in damages to the families of those killed onboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, while lawsuits to both the airline and other parties could increase figures even further than those guaranteed. The flight crashed in Ukraine on July 17, killing 298 passengers and crew.

Under the rules of the Montreal Convention, which Malaysia accepted in 2007, commercial air carriers operating under the international agreement are liable for damages due to bodily injury or death. The liability level is defined by the International Monetary Fund, and is currently set at over $100,000 per victim. Though Malaysia has a condition for military authorities in their acceptance of the Convention, the situation does not apply to MH17.

According to The Rakayt Post, Malaysia Airlines has offered an advance payment to families as part of a complete damages award. An unidentified spokesperson of Malaysia Airlines told the newspaper: “The payment being offered is not conditional on the families waiving any rights to claim further compensation from the airline and that the families remain free to take whatever further legal action they deem appropriate.”

Despite this payment, some families are taking legal action against additional parties as a result of the incident. NBC News reports that the families of three German victims will sue the Ukrainian Government for alleged negligence in ensuring the safety of the commercial airliner.

The families of Olga Ioppa, 23, Andre Anghel, 24, and another unidentified German victim, will seek over $1.29 million per victim through the European Court for Human Rights. According to Reuters, the lawsuit will allege that by not closing airspace over Ukraine, the nation and President Petro Poroshenko may have been responsible for manslaughter.

“Ukraine neglected its responsibility to guarantee the safety of the airspace over its territory,” Elmar Giemulla, the attorney representing the German families, told NBC News. “It would have been an easy measure.”

While the airspace was closed immediately after the incident, News.com.au reports that many airlines were avoiding the airspace prior to the crash. U.S.-based air carriers traveling international routes were not flying over parts of Ukraine after an FAA advisory issued April 3 and Qantas elected not to fly routes over Ukraine.

The lawsuit against Ukraine comes as the team investigating the incident is releasing their initial findings. The Guardian reported in early September that the Dutch Safety Board released an initial finding that the airliner was brought down by “a large number of high energy objects.” The reports did not speculate as to what the objects were.

As the investigation continues, many experts believe more lawsuits will follow for Malaysia Airlines. However, attorneys for other families are calling for a swift resolution.

“It could be resolved quickly… the whole thing just cries out for let’s all sit down, the airline, the countries and let’s agree on a resolution,” Jerry Skinner, an attorney for two families affected by MH17, told News.com.au. “People in this situation, everything that happens that they don’t understand or expect, exacerbates the grief and makes it worse.”

[Photo: iStock]

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Himeno September 23, 2014

"Qantas elected not to fly routes over Ukraine." Qantas "elected" not to fly over Ukraine by changing their hub from SIN to DXB and that happened more then a year before the MH17 incident.

relangford September 23, 2014

It seems the only parties not being sued are those that shot the plane down! The pro-Russian rebels who so gleefully announced to the world that they shot down a plane seem to be getting a pass.