Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jurisdictional Issues for Asiana Flight 214 Claims

In Monday's post on Asiana 214 we were overly hasty in writing that all plaintiffs will have their choice of bringing claims in the U.S. or South Korea. Jurisdiction is partially dependent upon the ticketing situation of each passenger and its certainly possible that some of the plaintiffs will not be able to bring claims in U.S. courts.

The Wall Street Journal has a good rundown of the jurisdictional questions raised by the Asian Flight 214 crash. Actions for damages under the Montreal Convention must be brought according to the jurisdictional rules set out in Article 33 of the Convention. Generally speaking, claims can be brought in the State of domicile or principal place of business of the carrier (South Korea in this case), the State in which the ticket was purchased (if the airline has a place of business there), the passenger's final destination, or the State of the passenger's principal and permanent residence (if the carrier operates services there).

Without knowing the individual circumstances of each passenger, we can still say with certainty that any of the passengers can bring a claim in South Korea. The Chinese and American passengers will also likely be able to bring suit in their home States, assuming that's where they have their permanent residence. The more difficult question will be whether Chinese or South Korean passengers can bring claims in the United States. Those flying on one-way tickets to San Francisco will have jurisdiction to bring their claims in the U.S. under the final destination rule. However, non-U.S. residents flying on round-trip tickets may lack a jurisdictional basis to bring their claims in U.S. courts as their final destination would be considered Seoul or Shanghai. As the article points out, courts have not applied this rule consistently and this limitation only applies to claims against airlines under the Montreal Convention.

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