MH370 Families Want Answers and They Want Justice

March 9, 2015 | Los Angeles, California

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary for the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing less than an hour after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. The plane held 227 passengers and 12 crew. The plane has yet to be found.

The International Civil Aviation Organization released a 584-page report yesterday, revealing that the battery for one of the black boxes on the plane, the flight data recorder, had expired over a year before the plane’s disappearance. Although the other black box, the cockpit voice recorder, was not determined to have an expired battery, the chances of finding MH370 was significantly reduced.

Additionally, The Straits Times reported today that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was carrying 221kg of lithium-ion batteries that did not undergo the normal security screening a year ago. These batteries are known to burst into flame and emit toxic gases, vapors, or fumes, and have previously brought down two airliners, a UPS Airlines cargo plane in 2010 and an Asiana Airlines cargo plane in 2011.

This is very bad news on top of already grief stricken families who are angry about the inept handling by Malaysia Airlines in the days, weeks and months after the crash, and the airline’s lack of transparency. Many families are also upset about the recent announcement by Malaysia government authorities classifying MH370 as an “accident” and that all passengers and crew were “presumed to have lost their lives.” Everyone wants to know what happened to the Boeing 777-200ER.

The aviation lawyers at law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman are representing the families of many of the Chinese passengers aboard the ill-fated flight. The law firm’s lead aviation lawyer, senior shareholder Ronald L. M. Goldman, met with dozens of family members last year in Beijing. Baum Hedlund is representing the families in a joint effort with two prestigious law firms in China.

The firm says their clients are ready to confront the litigation phase of this tragedy as Malaysia Airlines has done little to help the families either in the form solid information about the disappearance of the flight or of monetary compensation. The airline offered each family $50,000 in June of last year as an initial compensation payment. The airline has limited the time within which the families can accept that offer.

Although the Montreal Convention treaty entitles families to receive about $175,000 in damages without proof of fault by the airline, this is a mere fraction of what families typically get from a catastrophic event such as the disappearance of MH370. Even if the families accept the money, they do not give up their right to sue the airline or the aircraft manufacturer, The Boeing Company.

The Baum Hedlund law firm has extensive experience handling airline disasters across the globe, having represented hundreds of clients in more than 70 major airline crashes or incidents since 1985. The firm currently represent 17 passengers injured in the 2013 Asiana Airlines Flight OZ214 crash at San Francisco International Airport and dozens of passengers from JetBlue Flight 1416, which had to make an emergency landing at Long Beach, California after the cabin filled with toxic smoke.

The firm’s lead aviation attorney, Mr. Goldman, intends to hold Malaysia Airlines and possibly The Boeing Company fully accountable for this disaster and will demand substantial compensation for the passengers’ families. “Malaysia Airlines’ initial offer of $50,000 to each family is disrespectful for the losses these families have suffered and reflects the attitude Malaysia Airlines has exhibited to the surviving family members since the beginning of this tragic affair,” Mr. Goldman stated. “Such losses are actually measured in the millions. We will seek justice to the fullest extent possible and hold Malaysia Airlines accountable for their lack of attention to safety, and poverty of compassion for the suffering families.”

The public outcry of suffering families over the lack of technology to detect and report in real time in-flight anomalies, track aircraft throughout its flight, and locate missing aircraft, points to the overdue need for airlines and aircraft manufacturers to step up and develop these systems and, finally, put safety over profits.

Aircraft manufacturers have known for many years that the systems being utilized today do not optimize location information throughout the length of many over-ocean flights. They have known for years that hijacking is a potential risk, and that sophisticated hijackers would know how to defeat onboard reporting and navigation systems (see: 9/11/2001). Yet, nothing has been done.

Mr. Goldman emphasized that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has cooperated with industry in dragging its feet on these, and related, issues for many years, and has yet to act. In fact, it now complains that it will still take years to fully implement safer systems. “The location of MH370 is, today, a complete mystery. The reasons it is a mystery are not mysterious at all. Lack of will politically, abdication of responsibility, and lack of a sufficient media megaphone to date have allowed airliners to fly without frequent electronic position reports no matter where the airplane is; transponders can be manually disabled without automatically notifying air traffic control, and sending signals that warn of hijacking thus allowing for swift intervention; archaic emergency locator equipment is allowed; twentieth century batteries are employed regardless of 21st Century technology;  etc., etc., all contributed to this loss,” Goldman said.

“It appears that somehow the legal system must find a way to push the reforms necessary to correct these, and a myriad of other, defects that threaten the lives and safety of air passengers,” Goldman continued. “Until airlines and manufacturers are convinced that the infrequency of these events is not a profitable excuse for implementation of safer designs, it is feared that little will be done. Do we actually have to wait until more lives are lost before action is taken?”

Will the families of those aboard MH 370 ever see justice?  Our firm will do everything in its power to ensure they will.

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