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Malaysia Airlines liable to pay millions in damages even if MH370 not found, says air-disaster lawyer

Published on Mar 25, 2014 4:14 PM
 
Ground staff tow out a Malaysia Airlines plane from the terminal at Kuala Lumpur Intenational Airport (KLIA) in Sepang on March 25, 2014. Family members could claim as much as US$175,000 (S$222,600) for every passenger aboard MH370 even if the Malaysia Airlines jet is not located, a Bloomberg report says. -- PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Family members could claim as much as US$175,000 (S$222,600) for every passenger aboard MH370 even if the Malaysia Airlines jet is not located, a Bloomberg report says.

"The disappearance of Flight 370 remains a mystery. The legal claims against Malaysia Airlines - those are not a mystery," Mr Robert Hedrick, a pilot and air-disaster lawyer in Seattle, was quoted as saying in the report.

Airlines are liable under the Montreal Convention of 1999, an international treaty that covers air travel, to pay damages for every passenger killed or injured in an accident, even if the cause cannot be established.

As there were 227 passengers on board MH370, which vanished on March 8 and is believed to have plunged in the southern Indian Ocean based on latest satellite analysis from Britain, Malaysia Airlines' liability could come close to US$40 million.

But if an airline is found to be guilty of negligence, its liablity can be much higher, says the Bloomberg report. The cap of about US$175,000 in damages per passenger as stipulated in the treaty may no longer apply in this scenario, as family members of the affected passengers may sue and demand much higher compensation.

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