Monday, March 7, 2016 9:07 am
Relatives of a dozen Chinese passengers aboard missing flight MH370 began filing suits against Malaysia Airlines at a Beijing court Monday, a day ahead of the second anniversary of its disappearance and a legal deadline to do so.
Several wiped away tears, turning to borrow tissues from neighbours, before depositing their documents with court officials.
The flight, with 239 people — including 153 Chinese citizens — on board, vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, and authorities said it went down in the southern Indian Ocean.
Under international agreements, families have two years to sue over air accidents.
But many Chinese families were “deeply conflicted” over the decision to go to court, said lawyer Zhang Qihuai, whose Lanpeng firm represents the group who were filing suit on Monday.
“They think that after you’ve accepted compensation, the company can deny any further responsibility and wash its hands of the incident, and that the public will naturally forget about the whole thing,” explained Zhang.
The compensation requested ranged from around five to eight million yuan ($755,000 to $1.23 million) per victim, he said, depending on their age and earnings.
“Originally, many didn’t intend to sue, and instead wanted to continue waiting. But there’s a time limit, so they have no other choice -– losing the right to sue would be terribly painful.”
Several US, Malaysian, Australian and Chinese law firms have told AFP that they have begun filing suit on behalf of relatives, seeking undisclosed damages.
The relatives hope that court scrutiny will help reveal answers about what befell the plane.
At the same time, many express misgivings over negotiating compensation while the investigation remains inconclusive, referring to payouts as “blood money, received in exchange for life”.
“I chose to prosecute in order to have my child safely returned to me,” said Gao Xianying, 65, who lost her daughter, son-in-law, and three-year-old granddaughter on the flight.
“I’m convinced that the plane didn’t crash into the Indian Ocean, that it landed somewhere and that my child is safe, living on this earth.”
She would never believe her family’s death until their bodies were found, she said.