KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Families of 12 passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Friday sued the carrier and the government, ahead of a filing deadline next week on the second anniversary of the plane’s disappearance.
The Boeing 777 carrying 239 flew far off course after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8, 2014. An ongoing search of the southern Indian Ocean has found nothing, though a wing part washed ashore on Reunion Island last year.
A global aviation agreement sets a two-year deadline for lawsuits by next-of-kin over air accidents.
Lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo, who represents 10 families, said the lawsuits involve a passenger from Russia, one from China and the rest from Malaysia. The lawsuits name the airline, the government and the then-heads of the civil aviation department and the navy as defendants.
Sangeet said her clients had been negotiating with the airline. “Everyone waited till the last minute to give time to the airline to settle but nothing reasonable was forthcoming. So they have no choice but to take legal action given the time limitation,” Sangeet said.
Lawyer Yeoh Cho Kheong, who represents the families of two Ukrainian passengers, said his clients will continue negotiations with the airline despite the lawsuit.
All the lawsuits are seeking unspecified sums for negligence and breach of contract, the lawyers said.
An international aviation agreement allows each next-of-kin of passengers up to $175,000 in compensation, but a lawsuit can seek more.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai urged all families of Flight 370 passengers to file claims before March 8 to preserve their legal rights.
He said in a statement he has been informed by the airline that less than 60 compensation claims have been settled and 169 families have commenced final compensation process. He didn’t give details.