Jul 22, 2013

    Chinese claims against Asiana may be complex

    EXPERTS have weighed in on the complications of claiming compensation in the Asiana plane crash as a lawyer set up a 50-man legal team to help Chinese passengers with claims.

    Chinese-American lawyer Daniel Deng said his team has travelled to San Francisco from their offices in Southern California several times since last weekend to investigate and collect data. Their next step is to continue investigations in China.

    Asiana Flight 214 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6 with 307 passengers aboard. There were 141 Chinese passengers, including three teenage girls who were killed.

    One of the girls, Ye Mengyuan, survived being thrown out of the plane, but, as the plane burned, the 16-year-old student was hidden by the firefighting foam that rescue workers were spraying to douse the blaze.

    In the chaotic moments that followed, a fire truck ran over Mengyuan, killing her.

    Ms Mary Schiavo, who works at United States law firm Motley Rice, told reporters that the foreign victims of the crash could process their compensation claims in the US.

    However, Mr Brian Alexander, a partner at Kreindler & Kreindler, said it was too early to determine where the cases will proceed.

    "The facts concerning the causes of the crash and each individual's injuries, as well as any contributing factors, will determine where suits can be filed and who the potential responsible parties will be.

    "While the laws on damages vary between the three countries, there are many factors that may, in the end, impact the case values," he said.

    Mr Robert Hedrick, an attorney with Aviation Law Group in Seattle, told China Daily that Chinese passengers' claims are subject to jurisdictional limitations contained in the Montreal Convention, an international treaty that defines provisions concerning compensation for victims of air disasters.

    The factors for jurisdictional limitations are: where the airline is based; the country of final destination; the country where the ticket was purchased; and the passenger's country of permanent residence.

    "Chinese passengers and other non-US passengers will have a hard time holding jurisdiction in US courts against Asiana, unless their ticketed final destination was in the US, or unless they somehow purchased their tickets here (in the US) through an Asiana office located here," he said.

    The Montreal Convention applies only to claims against the airline, and not claims against other parties. Chinese passengers will find US courts' doors wide open for claims against third parties, Mr Hedrick said.

    But he suggested that Chinese passengers take time to focus on recovery.

    "There is no need to rush to hire a lawyer today, tomorrow or next week," he said. "The Montreal Convention has a two-year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit."