KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – 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 a reasonable time after it disappeared from 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 directors-general 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).
Selvaraj said the court would determine the amount of any damages to award.
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. In the case of the airline, he said the court could likely follow the compensation amount of $175,000 set under the Montreal Convention. For the other respondents, he said it is an unprecedented case and would depend on the evidence given in court and culpability of the parties.
The plane is believed to have crashed in a remote patch of the southern Indian Ocean. The Australian coordinators of the search have said the current phase could take another year and there is still no guarantee of success. No debris has ever been found.
AP writer Didi Tang in Beijing contributed to this report.