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Asiana may try to avoid suits in U.S.

Airline may save millions under law that could ban Chinese and Koreans from suing in U.S.

When tragedy strikes and a company may be at fault, millions of dollars are often awarded to those harmed—especially in the U.S. And that’s exactly what Asiana Airlines Inc. is likely worried about after one of its Boeing 777s crash landed in San Francisco on Saturday night, killing two and injuring dozens more.   

But the airline may be spared from shelling out those millions upon millions of dollars if it employs an international law that would bar Chinese and South Korean passengers from suing in the U.S., where courts are known to be friendly to victims.

Under the Montreal Convention, if Asiana can prove that Chinese and South Korean passengers’ final destinations were their home countries, they can be barred from filing suit in the U.S. Including crew, 234 of the 307 people on board were either Chinese or South Korean.

“The airlines and their insurers will do everything they can to transfer the case to a jurisdiction where their ultimate liability is going to be small,” Joel Faxon, a trial lawyer who has litigated some high-profile plane crashes, told Bloomberg. According to Faxon, the U.S. has a “generous judicial system” and in California, there are no caps on payouts for wrongful death or injury cases.

While the airline may be able to save millions with the litigation tactic, it’s not commenting on its legal strategy just yet. “It’s too early to discuss those issues,” Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyo Min told Bloomberg. “We are putting all our efforts into finding out the cause of the accident.”

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Cathleen Flahardy

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