KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 – Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has again said that it will fully compensate the families of those who died in the MH17 tragedy about two months ago. The airline expressed disappointment that an Australian media outlet had earlier this week published a report that MH17 families were denied full compensation. “MAS is deeply disappointed by the disingenuous and factually and legally incorrect opinions, which were first briefly published on September 14 before being withdrawn and then republished on September 16 in an article entitled ‘MH17 families denied full compensation by Malaysia Airlines’,” the airline said in a statement today. The article was written by Australian Fairfax media group’s London-based journalist Nick Miller.
MAS said Miller’s updated article on September 16 “largely ignored the comments and information provided” in a formal reply by the airline’s lead lawyer, who was handling the claims on behalf of MAS. “It is regrettable that Mr Miller’s piece was published, albeit briefly, prior to receiving responses to his questions posed to the lead lawyer handling the claims on behalf of MAS and its insurers. “The article was subsequently republished after a formal reply was submitted to Mr Miller as earlier agreed. Unfortunately, the updated story ignored the comments and information provided in that reply.
“MAS is acutely conscious of its moral and legal obligations to those affected by the terrible tragedy which befell our flight MH17 and has never sought to avoid paying full compensation in accordance with the law.” MAS said Miller and the “expert” lawyers quoted in his article failed to understand the operation of the relevant law – the Montreal Convention 1999, a multilateral treaty that mandates payment of around US$183,000 (RM592,526) per person. Under that law, MAS is liable regardless of whether the airline is responsible for causing death or injury.
MAS said its lawyers had previously dealt with LHD Lawyers in Sydney, who were quoted by Miller, when they asked why the airline was only offering US$50,000 as an advance compensation payment. MAS said Michael Hyland of that Australian firm asserted that “I note the maximum payment is currently approximately US$183,000” and viewed that the airline was strictly liable to pay that amount. “Our lawyers responded (to Hyland) that his analysis of the legal position is incorrect,” MAS said.
MAS said Hyland and those advising him were aware that the advance compensation payment being offered was not conditional on the families waiving any rights to claim further compensation from the airline. “The payment is made in recognition of a non-binding, though widely followed and wholly appropriate international practice, and the payment will be part of the final damages payable.” The airline said families were also free to take whatever further legal action they deemed appropriate. It said its foremost priority was to attend to the care and support of the next-of-kin. “We will also do our utmost to ensure that fair and adequate compensation is paid to families of those affected by this tragedy as soon as possible.”
MAS said it was willing to address queries from the media but added that it expected fair and accurate reporting in return. Miller’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald on September 16 reported that “at least two families – and probably more – have been offered barely a quarter of the money they are legally entitled to under international treaties known as the Montreal Convention”, quoting lawyers from LHD. “Malaysia Airlines is being completely disingenuous, they are not giving families all the information they need,” said one lawyer with LHD in the report. MAS had earlier denied the accusation. MH17, carrying 298 people, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17. Among those on board were 193 citizens from the Netherlands, 43 Malaysians and 27 Australians.