July 11, 2013 — Experts predict that that Asiana Airlines Inc. could try to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits from non-American victims of the Flight 214 plane crash at SFO on July 6. According to Bloomberg, an international treaty called the Montreal Convention could prevent Chinese and South Koreans from filing lawsuits in the United States, where they would likely receive far more compensation than in their home countries. The Montreal Convention limits individual passenger liability to about $170,000 on international flights.
Lawyers predict that if plane crash lawsuits are allowed to proceed in the United States, it could be consolidated in a San Francisco federal court, where it could take up to five years to resolve. Many passengers will likely settle out of court before they go to trial.
The flight had 307 passengers, of whom 141 were from China and South Korea and 61 were from the United States. Nearly 200 people were given medical treatment after the plane crashed, including dozens who were hospitalized and five who remain in critical care. Two 16 year-old girls from China died in the crash. Reports from fire officials suggest that one of the girls may have survived the crash, only to be run over by an emergency vehicle.
Investigators are still trying to determine why the pilots approached the runway too slowly, causing the plane to hit a sea wall and skid on the runway. There were four pilots on board, but the co-pilot landing the plane had only 43 hours of experience flying the Boeing 777. If the investigation points to pilot error as the cause of the disaster, the Montreal Convention will apply. If the problem was mechanical failure, lawsuits may be filed in the U.S. against Boeing.
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