SH17M PER PASSENGER

Ethiopia crash: US, Kenyan lawyers to help families get cash

They will not charge but are entitled to share of compensation should case go through

In Summary

•Each individual to provide documents showing proof of relation to the deceased

•Lawyers say reports showed clear problems with systems of aircraft

Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crash victims burial
ETHIOPIAN CRASH: Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crash victims burial
Image: BBC

The families of Ethiopian Airline crash victims could have it easy pursuing compensation for the death of their loved ones if the intention of a group of US and Kenyan-based lawyers succeeds.

Yesterday, a consortium of law firms including that of Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata and US-based lawyers came together to address the issue . 

Speaking to the press at Hotel Intercontinental, the lawyers said reports they have so far clearly showed there were problems with the aircraft systems.

“We are looking to make claims to those parties who are responsible for this unfortunate incident. Those parties include the airline, the air carrier, the manufacturers, insurance and perhaps others,” US lawyer Carlos Velasquez, who has prosecuted over 25 aviation accident cases, said.

Solomon Musyimi told the Star yesterday his law firm was approached by three families whose relatives perished in the ET302 flight just a few days after the crash to advise them on the modalities of the compensation. 

"Of most concern to me and my colleagues is that the victims may be enticed into signing documents that discharge Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines from responsibility and get under-compensated. This would be very unfortunate, given that their counterparts of other nationalities could be heftily compensated," he said. 

He went on: "We are in an education expedition, not a fishing one. We want our fellow countrymen not to be gullible and be exploited because they do not know their rights," he said, urging the families not to make any decision on the matter without proper legal advice. 

Musyimi said they are assembling a team of aviation experts who will collate evidence against Boeing to ensure the American multinational pays .

Boeing sold the new 737 max to airlines as a cost-saving move because they would not incur pilot retraining costs yet they knew the new fleet had a defect, he said.

"This makes it liable."

The lawyers will file the suits in federal courts in Chicago once they have enough evidence.

As part of reaching out, Musyimi said the lawyers participating in the venture will meet families at Intercontinental Hotel this Saturday at 2pm. 

The lawyers want the compensation to be done based on the victim's life expectancy, earning capacity and education background among other parameters. 

"We will also want Boeing to bear punitive damages to send clear signals to other sector players that human lives must be treated as sacrosanct," he said.  

Boeing, the manufacturer of the Ethiopian Airplane that crashed, will be sued.

Laban Opande, a Texas-based attorney, revealed they have met eight families and they will seek to meet more, adding that others on their team are already drafting the pleadings.

“We have to be retained. This is not a class action. An individual comes and retains us to represent them,” Opande said.

Opande said they will finance the litigation as they will not seek money from the families.

However, they are set to recover a portion from what will be awarded as compensation.

 “For every claimant, every plaintiff has to prove their case, so even though they are consolidated, every claimant will be standing alone in terms of judgement,” he said.

Protocol

The compensation might be higher than that capped by the Montreal protocol.

The Montreal Convention ratified in 1999 establishes airline liability in the case of death or injury to passengers, as well as in cases of delay, damage or loss of baggage and cargo.

The carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.

The protocol caps compensation at Sh17 million per passenger.

Kang’ata said they will push the government to provide necessary documents that will link the relatives to those who perished.

Lawyer Mohamed Nyaoga said they are going to provide as local law firms the link to the American firm to those families affected.

“There are situations whereby we will be required to provide statements and documentation from families,” he said.

The case could take between 18 months to two years to conclude.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star