Australian son of MH17 passenger files first legal claim against Malaysia Airlines: Report

Relatives of the Australian victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 take part in a service to unveil a memorial on the first anniversary of the plane's downing.
Relatives of the Australian victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 take part in a service to unveil a memorial on the first anniversary of the plane's downing. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY - The first legal action against Malaysia Airlines over the ill-fated flight MH17 - which was shot down over Ukraine more than a year ago - has been filed by a relative of a passenger, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The legal papers were filed by Australian Tim Lauschet at the country's Supreme Court through Sydney law firm LHD Lawyers on Friday, the paper reported on Sunday.

Lauschet lost his mother Gabriele Lauschet when the Boeing 777 fell on July 17 last year on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The paper said the 48-year-old passenger was a respected teacher at the German International School in northern Sydney.

All 298 passengers and crew - the majority of them Dutch - died when the plane was downed over rebel-held eastern Ukraine during heavy fighting between Kiev's armed forces and pro-Russian separatists.

The Australian paper's report citing the legal claim said Lauschet had been forced to sell the family home and give up his job following the loss of his mother.

The 24-year-old labourer said he had received US$50,000 (S$68,000) in compensation. But his lawyers argue that under international law, all families of loved ones should have immediately received "no questions asked" payments ofUS$113,100. The lawyers said that accepting this sum would not preclude them from making further claims.

Lauschet said he had received his mother's care, education, training, guidance, example and encouragement as well as financial, economic benefits and support.

The claim said he had suffered a "recognised psychiatric and/or psychological injury as a result of the death of his deceased mother", adding that he was no longer able to continue working after the incident.

He said he had no choice but to take legal action as the airline had not responded to his lawyers' questions in January.

"What choice do I have? Roll over and play dead? I'm trying to put my life back together but it's really hard and Malaysia Airlines is not helping," the paper quoted him as saying.

According to the paper, Malaysia Airlines did not appear to know that the claim had been filed.

In a statement to the paper, it said: "Malaysia Airlines has not been served with any writ allegedly filed in the NSW Supreme Court," adding that it had reached out to all next-of-kin to conclude final compensation.

It noted, however, that some families had chosen to retain their own lawyers, while some families "may have preferred to have the matter formally resolved by the court, as they are entitled to do. As MAS has no knowledge of the matter, any comment at this stage would be speculative."