12 families seek damages three days before deadline

KUALA LUMPUR: With three days to go before the deadline for the filing of civil suits against Malaysian Airline System Bhd (MAS) under the Montreal Convention is due, 12 families, including four from overseas, have initiated legal proceedings against the company over the disappearance of Flight MH370.

The families filed their suits at the High Court civil registry here yesterday.

With the latest addition, this means 16 suits relating to the ill-fated flight en route from here to Beijing on March 8, 2014, have so far been filed, with one of them settled out of court last June.

Among the plaintiffs yesterday were two Ukrainian families.

The first concerned Tetiana Yevhenivna Chustrak, the widow of Oleg Volodymyrovych Chustrak, and their sons - Yevhen, Denys and Roman Olegovych Chustrak.

The second were Natalia Viktorivna Bragina-Deineka, the widow of Sergii Grygorovych Deineka, their daughter Yelyzaveta Sergiivna Deineka, her mother-in-law Olena Vasylivna Deineka and father-in-law Grygoriy Nikandrovych Deineka.

Their lawyer Yeoh Cho Kheong told reporters that Chustrak and Deineka, both 44, were business partners who were said to be each earning an annual income of about US$2mil (S$2.7 million).

Another lawyer, Sangeet Kaur Deo, said 10 families also filed similar civil suits against MAS and four others - Malaysia Airlines Bhd, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-­general, air force chief and the Government.

Sangeet said her clients comprised eight Malaysians, a Russian and a Chinese national who preferred to withhold their identities.

They are claiming for the following passengers: Malaysians Tan Teik Hin, Guan Hua Jin, Anne Catherine Daisy, Wan Hock Khoon, Yap Chee Meng, Muzi Yusop, Suhaili Mustafa, Sim Keng Wei, Chinse national Ju Kun and Russian Nikolai Brodskii.

All the plaintiffs said the airline and the authorities had breached their obligations to provide a safe flight.

They are variously suing for negligence, breach of contract, loss of financial support, bereavement, funeral expenses and unspecified damages.

MAS had on March 24, 2014, sent text messages to the next of kin that all evidence suggested that the plane had gone down in the southern Indian Ocean.

On Jan 29 last year, the DCA director-general had, on behalf of the Malaysian Government, declared MH370 to be an accident and that all 239 passengers and crew on board it were presumed to have lost their lives.

Malaysia is a signatory to the 1999 Montreal Convention, under which the airline is liable for all of the plaintiffs' damages unless it proves that it was completely without fault, or that the accident was caused solely by a third party.

The right to damages expires if an action is not brought within two years, from the date the aircraft was to have arrived.