Malaysia Airlines: Boys win damages over father’s death

The family's lawyer Arunan Selvaraj, centre, at the court in Kuala Lumpur. Picture: AP
The family's lawyer Arunan Selvaraj, centre, at the court in Kuala Lumpur. Picture: AP
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TWO Malaysian boys whose father was a passenger on the airliner that vanished in March last year secured an out-of-court settlement in the tragedy’s first legal case against Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and the government.

On behalf of Jee Jing Hang’s two sons – Jee Kinson, 13, and Jee Kinland, 11 – his family brought a lawsuit against MAS for breach of contract as it failed to bring its passengers to their destination.

Lawyer Arunan Selvaraj said yesterday the mother of the boys had decided to accept compensation on their behalf so they can “move forward with their life”. He declined to reveal the amount of the settlement.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board when it disappeared on 8 March last year. Authorities believe it crashed in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean but no trace of the plane has been found. A search is still ongoing, with an Australian-led team.

The plane was declared lost in an accident on 29 January by Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, and the 239 passengers and crew on board deemed dead.

Lawyers said that the declaration was an admission of liability and the airline had no defence, should lawsuits seeking compensation be filed against it.

Reports said the MAS management had offered to pay $50,000 (about £32,500) in compensation to the boys.

According to the Montreal Convention – a multilateral treaty that governs international transportation of passengers and cargo – a maximum of $175,000 can be offered in compensation by airlines.

Other relatives of Flight 370 passengers were waiting for the outcome of the first test case. Mr Selvaraj said he did not know of more lawsuits yet being filed.

The suit – which also names the DCA, the Immigration Department and Royal Malaysian Air Force as defendants – was previously discontinued by the family to file afresh against each of the defendants.

The settlement, which was finalised in the chambers of High Court Judge Rosnaini Saub yesterday, came about after the plaintiff’s counsel, Mr Selvaraj, confirmed that his client had accepted the offer of an undisclosed amount of money from the defendants.

In their statement of claim, the boys said their father, who was 41, had entered into an agreement with MAS for safe passage to Beijing when he paid the airfare.

Malaysia Airlines has begun the process of paying compensation after the Malaysian government declared the jet’s disappearance an accident.

The boys’ suit was filed in October last year, accusing the airline, the civil aviation department, the directors-general of civil aviation and immigration, and the country’s air force chief for alleged gross neglect and breach of duty.

They sought damages for mental distress, emotional pain and the loss of support. Their father operated an internet business earning a monthly income of nearly $4,600, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claimed that Malaysia Airlines failed to take all due safety measures, resulting in the disappearance of the airliner on 8 March an hour after it took off from KL International Airport. They also argued the government did not try to establish contact within a reasonable time after MH370 disappeared from radar, and the Immigration Department failed in its duties by allowing passengers with fake identities on to the plane.

l Four months later, Flight MH17 was blown out of the sky, killing all 298 people on board, by a suspected ground-to-air missile over Ukraine.

The Russian maker of the Buk air defence missile system said yesterday it has concluded that the flight was downed by an older version of the missile, which isn’t in service with the Russian military but is in Ukrainian arsenals.