Missing Malaysian Flight MH370: The £450m question – Why are Western lives worth more than Chinese ones aboard the stricken plane?

Search for debris suspended due to bad weather - yet families already being urged to consider potential pay-outs

As Chinese life insurance companies started paying out to the families of those on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, relatives of passengers from different countries faced the prospect of wide discrepancies in the compensation from the airline.

According to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, the country’s largest insurance company China Life had 32 clients on board the flight when it disappeared into the southern Indian Ocean.

The families of seven passengers have already received pay-outs, and it is estimated that the company will pay out a total of 9 million yuan (£875,000), an average of less than £30,000 per person.

Meanwhile, experts have warned that Malaysian Airlines could face compensation costs of up to $750 million (£450 million).

Though no debris has been found from the missing Boeing 777 and Chinese families continue to protest that they have not been told “ the whole truth” by Malaysian authorities, a US-based law firm has also already come forward to say it is preparing to bring lawsuits against the airline and plane manufacturer.

Under the terms of the Montreal Convention, which was drawn up to deal with the multinational issue of aircraft disasters, a lawsuit can be brought in any one of five possible courts – the country of origin for the flight (Malaysia), the country where the flight was headed (Beijing), the country where the airline is based, the country where the tickets were bought or the home country of the individual passenger.

This raises the possibility of some passengers’ families receiving far smaller pay-outs than those from other countries.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is thought to have crashed on 8 March with the loss of all 239 people aboard after flying thousands of miles off course. More than 150 of the passengers were Chinese.

A US-based aviation crash attorney, Floyd Wisner, told CNBC: “ For the majority of passengers on this flight, this [the country where the lawsuit can be brought] is either China or Malaysia and these countries have very limited views of damages as opposed to America.

“They could evaluate these cases and say a Chinese life is (of) less value than an American life. That's unfair and that's going to cause problems.”

Wisner said that the airline could pay out between $500 and $750 million (£300-£450 million) in total compensation to the families, and was likely to have liability insurance to value of around $1 billion.

Malaysian Defense Minister and acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (L) and Malaysia's Department Civil Aviation Director General, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (R) show pictures of possible debris during a media conference in Kuala Lumpur Malaysian Defense Minister and acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (L) and Malaysia's Department Civil Aviation Director General, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (R) show pictures of possible debris during a media conference in Kuala Lumpur Chicago-based Ribbeck Law said it expects to represent families of more than half of the passengers on board the missing Malaysian Airlines flight in a lawsuit against the carriers and Boeing, alleging the plane had crashed due to mechanical failure.

The firm has filed a petition for discovery against the manufacturer and Malaysian Airlines in a Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court. The petition is meant to secure evidence of possible design and manufacturing defects that may have contributed to the disaster, the law firm said.

Though both Boeing and Malaysian Airlines were named in the filing, the focus of the case will be on Boeing, Ribbeck's lawyers told reporters, as they believe that the incident was caused by mechanical failure.

A relative of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 speaks to the media at the Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing on 26 March A relative of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 speaks to the media at the Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing on 26 March “Our theory of the case is that there was a failure of the equipment in the cockpit that may have caused a fire that rendered the crew unconscious, or perhaps because of the defects in the fuselage which had been reported before there was some loss in the cabin pressure that also made the pilot and co-pilot unconscious,” said Monica Kelly, head of Global Aviation Litigation at Ribbeck Law.

“That plane was actually a ghost plane for several hours until it ran out of fuel.”

Read more: Pilot would not have deliberately crashed, says son
BA in poorly-timed 'escape to the Indian Ocean' advert
Q&A: How much compensation will be paid - and by who?
 

Kelly said the conclusion was made based on experience on previous incidents, dismissing the possibilities of hijacking or pilot suicide.

The lawsuit, soon to be filed, would seek millions of dollars of compensation for each passenger and ask Boeing to repair its entire 777 fleet.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Chemistry Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments