Deal with 72 Asiana passengers leaves many cases unresolved

AP News
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Posted: Mar 04, 2015 6:27 PM
Deal with 72 Asiana passengers leaves many cases unresolved

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — While 72 passengers have settled their personal-injury claims stemming from the crash of an Asiana Airlines flight in San Francisco two years ago, other people are continuing their legal fight with the airliner and others involved in the accident that killed three Chinese teenagers and injured nearly 200 people.

There were 291 passengers and 16 crew members aboard the Boeing 777 flight that originated in South Korea when it slammed into a sea wall on approach on July 6, 2013.

Dozens of lawsuits have been filed in the United States, but many foreigners aboard the flight are prevented by international treaty from suing the airliner in this country and must pursue their legal claims in Asia and elsewhere.

Additionally, a Chinese family is suing the city of San Francisco for wrongful death after a rescue truck responding to the crash accidentally ran over and killed Ye Mengyuan, 16, as she lay injured on the tarmac.

The family's lawyer didn't return a phone call.

Arthur Wolk, a lawyer representing an American couple injured in the crash, said Wednesday that Asiana and its insurers have not yet made sufficient offers to settle the lawsuit he filed in January.

"They're not being realistic," Wolk said, declining to disclose details of the settlement discussions. He said the airline and its insurers are arguing that his clients Ruben and Belen Vallero "walked away from the accident" and aren't entitled to a hefty settlement. Wolk said both Valleros suffered lacerated livers and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The lawyers representing the passengers who settled their lawsuits and Asiana also declined to divulge the financial terms.

The settlement with 72 passengers who filed personal-injury claims includes the airline along with Boeing Co., which made the airplane, and Air Cruisers Co., the New Jersey company that made its evacuation slides.

"This is the first positive step for these passengers to be able to get closure on a tragic, catastrophic crash and hopefully try to get their lives back together," lawyer Frank Pitre said.

Boeing spokesman Miles Kotay said the aircraft maker does not comment on pending litigation. Asiana spokesman Steve Koo confirmed the settlement announced Tuesday, but declined to discuss the terms. Air Cruisers attorney Shalem Massey didn't return phone and email inquiries.

U.S. safety investigators blamed the pilots, saying they bungled the landing approach by inadvertently deactivating the plane's key control for airspeed, among other errors.

But the National Transportation Safety Board also said the complexity of the Boeing 777's auto-throttle and auto-flight director — two of the plane's key systems for controlling flight — contributed to the accident. The NTSB also faulted materials provided to airlines by Chicago-based Boeing, saying they fail to make clear the conditions in which the auto-throttle doesn't automatically maintain speed.

The passengers who settled had injuries that were less serious and have stabilized, Pitre said. At least 14 of the people with whom settlements were reached are minors, requiring the court to approve the agreements, according to Tuesday's filing.