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Malaysia Airlines media statement – 19 September 2014

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Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is deeply disappointed by the disingenuous and factually and legally incorrect opinions which were first briefly published on 14 September 2014 before being withdrawn and then republished on 16 September in an article entitled “MH17 families denied full compensation by Malaysia Airlines” written by Nick Miller who is understood to be a London based journalist with the Australian Fairfax media group.

It is particularly regrettable that Mr Miller’s piece was published, albeit briefly, prior to receiving responses to his questions posed to the lead lawyer handling the claims on behalf of MAS and its insurers. The article was subsequently republished after a formal reply was submitted to Mr. Miller as earlier agreed. Unfortunately however, the updated story largely ignored the comments and information provided in that reply.

MAS is acutely conscious of its moral and legal obligations to those affected by the terrible tragedy which befell our flight MH17 and has never sought to avoid paying full compensation in accordance with the law.

However, Mr. Miller and the lawyers that he has quoted, despite describing themselves as experts in the field, clearly fail to properly understand the operation of the relevant law which in respect of those claiming on behalf of the Australian passengers is the Montreal Convention 1999 which came into effect in Australia in January 2009 pursuant to the Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment (1999 Montreal Convention and Other Measures Act) 2008.

Our lawyers had previously been in correspondence with LHD Lawyers in Sydney (quoted in Mr Miller’s article) who had queried why MAS was only offering US$50,000 as an advance compensation payment with Mr. Michael Hyland of that firm asserting that “I note the maximum payment is currently approximately US$183,000” and opining that the airline was strictly liable to pay that amount.  Our lawyers responded that “Simply put your analysis of the legal position is incorrect.”

Regrettably, the comments attributed to Jerry Skinner [US Plaintiff lawyer advising Mr Hyland] also demonstrate that he too is labouring under the same fundamental misconception regarding the key provisions of the Montreal Convention. This should be of considerable concern to those families who have or are thinking of retaining their services.  Mr. Hyland, and those advising him, are fully aware that the advance compensation payment  being offered is not conditional on the families waiving any rights  to claim further compensation from the airline and that the families remain free to take whatever further legal action they deem appropriate.  The payment is being made in recognition of a non-binding, though widely followed and wholly appropriate international practice, and the payment will be part of the final damages payable.

MAS deeply regrets this style of ill-informed and sensational journalism which only serves to heighten the stress and emotional upheaval endured by families of the victims of the MH17 shoot down. Our foremost priority is to work tirelessly to attend to the care and support of the next-of-kin.  We will also do our utmost to ensure that fair and adequate compensation is paid to families of those affected by this tragedy as soon as possible. We remain open and willing to address appropriately posed questions and queries of the media but expect fair and accurate reporting in return.

We ask that all members of responsible media respect the feelings of the affected families at this difficult time and confine their reporting to verified and informed comment.

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