US lawyers ruled out of suits by MH370 families


KUALA LUMPUR: Two American lawyers have been refused permission to appear as counsel for families of missing MH370 passengers in suits against Malaysia Airlines and the government.

High Court judge Hanipah Farikullah held that they did not qualify for special admission nor did they meet the criteria under the Legal Profession Act.

She said Malaysian lawyers were up to the task of representing the families, giving as an example senior lawyer Tommy Thomas. “Tommy will be experienced enough to handle this case,” she said.

The families had sought the services of the two US lawyers, Steven Marks and Roy Altman, for their expertise in aviation law such as the Montreal Convention.

The judge said the convention would only form a part of the suit and the families could call foreign experts to give evidence on the convention.

Justice Hanipah said the claim would mainly involve negligence, breach of contract, conspiracy, fraud and misfeasance in public office, issues which could be handled by Malaysian lawyers.

Lawyer Farez Jinnah, who represented the Bar Council and the Kuala Lumpur Bar, said the case was the first to determine the meaning of “qualified persons” under the Legal Profession Act for the purpose of interpretation of ad hoc admission of foreign lawyers in a special case.

Objections to the US lawyers applications were made by Malaysia Airlines, the Civil Aviation Department, Royal Malaysian Air Force and the Federal Government.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit comprised 66 citizens of China, eight of India and two Americans, all family members of 32 passengers on board the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014.

The government has said the plane, 239 passengers and crew on board, had been diverted off its course and had gone down in the southern Indian Ocean with no survivors.