World

Malaysia Airlines MH370: 1st lawsuit filed on behalf of relatives

Two Malaysian children sued Malaysia Airlines and the government on Friday over the loss of their father on Flight 370, the first lawsuit filed in the country by relatives of those aboard the jetliner that mysteriously disappeared eight months ago.

Lawsuit on behalf of 2 boys who lost their father

Malaysian lawyer Arunan Selvaraj, center, speaks to journalists outside a courthouse in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. Two Malaysian teenage boys on Friday sued Malaysia Airlines and the government over the loss of their father on Flight 370, the first lawsuit filed by the family of a passenger of the jetliner that mysteriously disappeared eight months ago. (The Associated Press)

Two Malaysian children sued Malaysia Airlines and the government on Friday over the loss of their father on Flight 370, the first lawsuit filed in the country by relatives of those aboard the jetliner that mysteriously disappeared eight months ago.

Jee Kinson, 13, and Jee Kinland, 11, accused the civil aviation department of negligence for failing to try and contact the plane within in reasonable time after it dropped from the radar while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 with 239 people on board.

The suit filed at the Kuala Lumpur High Court alleges the airline was negligent and failed to take all due measures to ensure a safe flight. It also named the director-generals of civil aviation and immigration, the country's air force chief and the government as respondents and alleged they committed gross neglect and breach of duty.

"We have waited for eight months. After speaking to various experts, we believe we have sufficient evidence for a strong case. A big plane missing in this age of technology is really unacceptable," their lawyer Arunan Selvaraj said.

The boys are seeking damages for mental distress, emotional pain and the loss of support following the disappearance of their father, Jee Jing Hang. He operated an Internet business earning monthly income of nearly 17,000 ringgit ($5,200 US).

Big payouts not expected

Selvaraj said it was "up to the court" to determine the amount of any damages to award.

"The question is, could we have salvaged the situation if action was taken earlier?" Selvaraj said. "We want accountability."

Nearly two-thirds of the passengers on Flight 370 were from China.

Steve Wang, a Chinese man whose mother was on the plane, said many Chinese families had retained lawyers but he didn't think any of them had filed a lawsuit yet.

"We are examining the laws to figure out how to best bring our cases — for example, if we should file the suits in Malaysia. But without knowing where the plane is, evidence is lacking, and there are still possibilities that things may change," Wang said. "For now, it looks very difficult for us to bring a suit against the Malaysian government and its military."

Aviation lawyer Jeremy Joseph said the boys certainly have a case for the authorities to answer in court but it won't be easy.

"It's going to be quite challenging as the plane has not been recovered. Without knowing the cause of the incident, it's all very speculative," he said.

Joseph said Malaysian civil courts aren't likely to give big payouts. 

The plane is believed to have gone down in a remote patch of the Indian Ocean, where a search is ongoing. Not a single piece of debris from the plane has been found so far. Australian officials, who are coordinating the search, have said the hunt for the plane could take another year.

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