Chinese families lose appeal to stay court proceedings in MH370 lawsuit

PUTRAJAYA: The family members of 44 Chinese nationals who were on board missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH370 flight lost their appeal to stay Malaysian court proceedings pending the United States (US) court's decision on their lawsuits on the jurisdiction issue.

According to their lawyer T. Balan Nair, the family members of the passengers of the ill-fated flight had filed a lawsuit in the US and as well as at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur and their matter in the US is awaiting the court's determination on whether it had jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit.

A three-man bench of the Court of Appeal panelled by Justice Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh, in a 2-1 majority decision, today dismissed the appeal of the 32 family members to obtain an order to stay the court proceedings in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur pending the US court's decision.

"We have a split decision. Justice Ong (Datuk Vernon Ong Lam Kiat) is inclined to allow the appeal," he said, adding that he and Justice Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli were of the view that the appellate court should not disturb the decision of the High Court.

Justice Mohd Zawawi said the court's majority decision found that there were no appealable errors by the High Court judge and he ordered the family members to pay RM5,000 costs each to Malaysian Airline System Berhad (MAS), Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), and the government agencies involved in the case.

The family members were appealing against the Kuala Lumpur High Court's refusal on Aug 10to grant them the stay order.

They sued MAS, MAB, Allianz Global Corporate and Speciality, the director-general of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, DCA, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and the Malaysian Government for negligence and breach of contract.

The Kuala Lumpur-Beijing bound flight carrying 239 passengers and crew was declared missing after disappearing from the radar screen on March 8, 2014 The flight path was believed to have ended in the Southern Indian Ocean.

Earlier, in the court proceedings, Balan Nair submitted that the families has commenced a lawsuit in US and that MAS and MAB had challenged the court's jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit, prompting them to file a lawsuit in Malaysia.

He said if the US court declined to hear the lawsuit, then the case in the Kuala Lumpur court would commence, adding that his clients wanted a stay order to avoid multiplicity of court proceedings.

However, MAS lawyer Saranjit Singh argued that the High Court judge had considered the facts of the case when deciding not to grant the stay order.

Senior federal counsel Alice Loke Yee Ching appearing for the government agencies said the government defendants in the lawsuit were not parties to the lawsuit in the US court.

She requested for the court to dismiss the appeal saying that if the stay order was granted, the government defendants could not initiate interlocutory application to seek for the lawsuit to be struck out.

After the decision, Saranjit told reporters that following the Court of Appeal decision today, the court proceedings in the High Court would proceed.

Lawyer R. Sanjeev Kumar who appeared for MAB said the matter was fixed for case management at the High Court on Dec 15.

Meanwhile, Balan Nair told reporters that he would take instructions from his clients on whether to bring the matter up to the Federal Court, adding that there was the possibility of further appeal. — Bernama