Lawyers for relatives of Germanwings plane crash victims weigh bringing case in US

BERLIN – Lawyers representing dozens of families who lost loved ones when a German passenger plane crashed in the Alps last month said Tuesday they may sue the airline in the U.S. to get more compensation.

Prosecutors say the co-pilot deliberately slammed Germanwings Flight 9525 into a mountainside in southern France on March 24, killing everyone on board. Almost half of the victims came from Germany, where the law doesn’t currently consider the deceased’s future earnings and the emotional impact on families when calculating how much money relatives are entitled to.

Berlin-based lawyer Elmar Giemulla said that although Germany’s parliament is considering changing the law, any revision would come too late for the 30 families he represents.

But because two of the victims were American, a U.S. court is likely to take up the case anyway, he said.

“And if you have a mixed group like that, then the others can apply to join the case,” Giemulla said.

He and another lawyer, Christof Wellens, said they hoped to resolve the case through negotiations with Germanwings’ parent company Lufthansa rather than go to court.

“It will depend on how constructive the talks with Lufthansa and Germanwings are,” Wellens said. “If they are prepared to negotiate about the internationally accepted amounts, then we’ll find a solution. If not, then we need to find a way to pursue our claims, and that would be in court.”

A spokesman for Germanwings declined to comment. “We aren’t going to participate in speculation,” Heinz Joachim Schoettes said.

Wellens, who represents the relatives of 21 victims, said he didn’t expect a quick resolution.

“The talks are sure to take a while, because the cases are rather complex,” Wellens said. “We’re representing everything from 4-month-old children to spouses, some of whom have no profession or chance of getting a job.”