MH370 Damages: First Shot Fired in Long Battle for Compensation

Wednesday, 26 Mar 2014 10:17 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Here come the lawyers. A Chicago law firm fired the first shot in what's sure to be a long worldwide battle to recover monetary damages after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing, asking an Illinois judge Tuesday to compel the airline and Boeing to turn over related documents.

The airplane's whereabouts and what happened to it remained a mystery Wednesday as searchers began to concentrate their efforts in an area of the south Indian Ocean west of Australia, thousands of miles where plane was originally scheduled to fly.

Malaysian officials said Monday they believe the airplane, a Boeing 777 which has been missing since March 8, plunged into the ocean, even though no physical evidence has been recovered.

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The Chicago firm Ribbeck Law filed the petition on behalf of Januari Siregar, whose son was on the flight, according to Reuters.

Ribbeck Law attorney Monica Kelly asked for specific information about the airline's batteries, details on the fire and oxygen systems and fuselage records.

"Our theory of the case is that there was a failure of the equipment in the cockpit that may have caused a fire that rendered the crew unconscious, or perhaps because of the defects in the fuselage which had been reported before there was some loss in the cabin pressure that also made the pilot and co-pilot unconscious," Kelly, head of global aviation litigation at Ribbeck Law, told reporters. "That plane was actually a ghost plane for several hours until it ran out of fuel."

Kelly told Reuters and other reporters that history of these incidents suggest that possibilities of a hijacking or pilot suicide are unlikely.

Aviation and personal injury lawyer Jerry Skinner told Australian Broadcast Co.'s PM with Mark Colvin that Malaysia Airlines stands to lose a huge amount of money financially.

"Most people file suits not because they've lost somebody but because of the way the airlines treat them," said Skinner. "And Malaysia Airlines has done a masterful job of making these passengers' families angry. I've worked on every major air disaster that has occurred in the United States, and particularly in the Atlantic."

Malaysia Airlines has offered a payment of $5,000 per family as financial assistance, but Skinner said family should receive a minimum of $183,000 based on the multilateral treaty known as the Montreal Convention.

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