Missing MH370: 'Filing suits may not be easy'

KUALA LUMPUR - The 45-day grace period is over.

Lawyers in the United States are now free to take on cases against Boeing, the manufacturer of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, if they want to.

Under the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) law, attorneys would have to wait that long after an aviation accident before making contact with the victims' families and represent them, and in the case of MH370, suing Boeing.

CNN yesterday quoted aviation attorney Daniel Rose, a partner at the Kreindler and Kreindler firm as saying that American lawyers would, however, face difficulties in filing the suit as no wreckage of the aircraft had been found.

"If we don't have the black box with all the critical information on it or we don't have any part of the wreckage, it would be very hard to maintain a claim against Boeing in any court in the United States."

The cable news channel also reported that at least one US-based case against MAS and Boeing was in the works.

Aviation attorney Monica Kelly, who represents Januari Siregar, whose son was on board MH370, was quoted as saying last month that she had filed a request for documents and other information in an Illinois court.

The motion to obtain evidence of possible design and manufacturing defects from Boeing and MAS was, however, dismissed.

Her firm, Chicago-based Ribbeck Law Chartered, which filed the first legal action arising from the MH370 tragedy, had sought documents from the two companies concerning employees, as well as sales and lease agreements, among other things.

Reuters had not too long ago quoted the firm as saying that it expected to represent the families of more than half of the passengers on board the missing flight.

Aviation lawyers and experts, however, called the suit premature and a publicity stunt since the details of the plane's disappearance were largely unknown.

Kreindler and Kreindler lawyer Justin Green said the filing was nothing short of outrageous.

"Without plane wreckage, victims' bodies and any substantial evidence of cause or potential motive, there is simply no way to determine liability at this point in the investigation and any legal counsel should recognise that."

Lawyer Tan Sri Dr Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, meanwhile, said the NTSB law did not apply to Malaysia and family members of the passengers were free to file their suit against whoever they believed had responsibility to bear over the incident.

However, like those thinking of doing so through the US courts, plaintiffs for suits filed in Malaysia would face hurdles in establishing their case in relation to the MH370 case.

"They will need strong grounds to pursue them. The family members would likely have to wait for an announcement from the authorities that there were no survivors from the plane.

"The next of kin of those on board the flight can file a suit any time so long as they can prove that their loved ones who boarded the flight had perished," Aziz, who is former MAS managing director and chief operating officer, said.

He also said for the next of kin to have access to sensitive documents and evidence related to the case, they would likely need to get the court's subpoena.

"However, for the court to allow it, their attorney would first have to provide solid evidence in building their case.

"For example, if they were to sue Boeing for manufacturing defects, the lawyer would have to provide evidence to support this claim.

"It is based on the evidence that the court could came out with orders to the authorities involved to release documents or other materials related to the investigation."