A federal judge in the District of Columbia is set to hear arguments Tuesday overwhether to dismiss lawsuits brought on behalf of passengers of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared over the Indian Ocean in 2014.
Most of the dismissal motions focus on the families of about 70 passengers, represented by various law firms including Motley Rice, Miami’s Podhurst Orseck and Spagnoletti & Co. in Houston.
They allege that Malaysia Airlines should be held accountable since it rejected wrongful death claims after it reorganized its corporate structure months after the aircraft’s disappearance. Most of the cases also target the plane’s manufacturer, Boeing Co., for alleged defects that caused the aircraft to malfunction.
Plaintiffs attorneys have brought various theories, even though the cause of the flight’s demise remains unclear.
The most novel theory is suing Malaysia Airlines insurer Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty. Plaintiffs represented by Motley Rice’s Mary Schiavo, former U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general, have attempted to hold Allianz liable by citing Article 32 of the Montreal Convention, which states: “In the case of the death of the person liable, an action for damages lies in accordance with the terms of this convention against those legally representing his or her estate.”
The cases identify Malaysia Airlines as a dead “person” whose legal representative is now Allianz. Allianz has filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
“Neither Article 32 of the Montreal Convention, nor any other article, create a direct cause of action against a carrier’s liability insurer,” wrote Richard Walker, of Kaplan, Massamillo & Andrews in Chicago, who represents Allianz. “Further, nothing within the Montreal Convention authorizes a cause of action against a noncarrier.”
In a response, Schiavo said the case was one of “first impression.”
“Contrary to defendants’ assertion, no court has ever said Article 32 cannot be applied against an insurance policy,” she wrote.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the District of Columbia, overseeing the multidistrict litigation, will hear arguments on that motion and several others seeking to dismiss the litigation over Flight 370.