Relatives of MH370 passengers scramble to file lawsuits

As 2-year deadline nears, one family of five seeks $10.7m payout

Relatives of passengers missing on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 are rushing to file lawsuits against the airline and Malaysian authorities before a two-year deadline is up on March 7.

A family of five related to MH370 passenger S. Puspanathan, 33, yesterday sued Malaysia Airline System Berhad, the Civil Aviation Department, Immigration Department, Royal Malaysian Air Force, the Malaysian government and four others for approximately RM32 million (S$10.7 million).

The family is demanding damages of up to RM1.9 million for loss of support and RM3 million for traumatic psychiatric injury, nervous shock and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other claims.

Lawyer Shailender Bhar, who represents the family, filed the suit at the High Court yesterday, saying that the plaintiffs had been waiting a long time for an explanation of what happened to the plane which vanished in the early hours of March 8, 2014, but answers have not been forthcoming.

"They have no choice but to file a suit to get answers from the court," Mr Shailender said.

Mr G. Subramaniam, 61, the father of Mr Puspanathan, said he had to take up odd jobs after his son, who was the sole breadwinner of the family, disappeared.

"I worry about my son's two children, whether they will have enough for their education. It is very difficult," Mr Subramaniam told The Straits Times.

The five plaintiffs - Mr Puspanathan's 31-year-old widow K. Sri Devi, the couple's two sons aged five and three, Mr Subramaniam and his wife A. Amirathan, 61 - are claiming that the defendants had jointly or severally caused the death or wrongful death of Mr Puspanathan.

The suit contends that Malaysia Airlines had failed to take adequate steps to upgrade, update or purchase emergency locator transmitters of newer models that could have helped to find MH370. It also claims that the Civil Aviation Department had failed to immediately send or deploy an aircraft or search and rescue party soon after losing contact with the plane.

The five plaintiffs join other suits already filed by several United States, Malaysian and Australian law firms on behalf of the relatives of the 239 people on board the flight.

If successful, total payouts could amount to "hundreds of millions" of dollars, Australian lawyer Joseph Wheeler told Agence France-Presse. The news agency also reported that 43 people, mostly Chinese, had filed lawsuits in New York early this month.

In June last year, the Malaysian government and Malaysia Airlines reached an out-of-court settlement with the family of Mr Jee Jing Hang, 40, in a suit brought on behalf of his two young sons.

Another suit was filed against the airline and Malaysian authorities on Aug 28 last year by the sons and parents of Mr Tan Ah Meng, 46, and his wife Chuang Hsiu Ling, 45, who were on the flight.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2016, with the headline 'Relatives of MH370 passengers scramble to file lawsuits'. Print Edition | Subscribe