Asiana 214 survivors get legal advice

Updated: 2013-07-19 12:02

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Asiana 214 survivors get legal advice

Li Yiyang, one of the Chinese students who were injured in the Asiana Flight 214 crash landing in San Francisco, gathers with her fellow passengers at the Chinese general consultate in the city. Chen Jia / China Daily

A Chinese American lawyer will set up a 50-man legal team to help the Chinese passengers who were involved in the Asiana flight 214 crash with compensation claims.

Lawyer Daniel H. Deng said he and his assistants have come to San Francisco from their offices in Southern California several times for initial investigations and data collection since last weekend. The next step is for them to continue their investigation in China.

The accident happened on July 6 when Asiana flight 214 crash-landed on approach to San Francisco International Airport with 307 people aboard. As of now, 141 Chinese passengers on the flight have been accounted for, including three dead teenager girls who had come to the US for summer camp.

One of the two teenage Chinese girls who died at the scene of the crash was reported to have been run over by a fire truck in the chaos surrounding the rescue effort. Pending an autopsy report, it remains unclear if she was still alive or already dead at the moment she was run over.

Mary Schiavo, who leads the aviation team of South Carolina-based law firm Motley Rice, told reporters that the foreign victims of the Asiana flight 214 crash could choose to process their compensation claims in the US courts system.

Schiavo, a former US Transportation Department inspector general, was one of the litigators on behalf of the families of airline passengers and crew killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"It is too early to determine where the cases will proceed," said Brian J. Alexander, a partner at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, told China Daily. "The facts concerning the causes of the crash and each individual's injuries, as well as any contributing factors, will determine where suits can be filed and who the potential responsible parties will be."

He said it is too early to determine the relative case values among the various claimants.

"While the laws on damages vary between the three countries, there are many factors which may in the end impact the case values," he said. "As noted by the NTSB, these cases usually have multiple factors and we will be looking at all possibilities."

Robert Hedrick, an attorney with Aviation Law Group in Seattle, told China Daily that Chinese passenger injury and wrongful death claims against Asiana are subject to the jurisdictional limitations contained in the Montreal Convention, which provides that claims against the airline can only be brought where Asiana is domiciled and its principal place of business (likely Korea).

Also, other factors include the country of final destination, the country where the ticket was purchased through the airline's office there, and finally the country of each passenger's permanent residence, he said.

"Chinese passengers and other non-US passengers will have a hard time holding jurisdiction in US courts against Asiana, unless their ticketed final destination was the US, or unless they somehow purchased their tickets here through an Asiana office located here," he said.

The Montreal Convention only applies to claims against the airline and not claims against other potential parties such as the aircraft and component part manufacturers, or entities involved in ground-based air navigation systems, he said.

Claims against non-airline parties will find US courts' doors wide open for Chinese passengers, he said.

He suggested Chinese passengers not be in any hurry to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit, as they have suffered extreme trauma and injury and need time to heal and focus on recovering.

"There is no need to rush to hire a lawyer today, tomorrow or next week," he said. "The Montreal Convention has a two-year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit."

(China Daily USA 07/19/2013 page10)