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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Demand Over|Missing Flight Guttered

(CN) - A Chicago-based law firm faces sanctions for trying to kick open the courtroom door regarding the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, a judge ruled while tossing the case Monday.

Claiming that the Beijing-bound flight experienced catastrophic mechanical failure that caused it to plunge into the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 passengers and crew on board, Ribbeck Law Chartered moved last week to compel discovery on a slew of documents related to the jet's maintenance and pilots' training.

The firm filed its petitions on behalf Lee Kim Fatt, the alleged administrator of the estate of passenger Foong Wai Yueng, and Januari Siregar, the father of passenger Firman Chandrra Siregar.

Judge Kathy Flanagan with the Cook County Circuit Court said Monday, however, that the law allows such filings only when the identity of potential defendants is unknown.

But here, "it is eminently clear from the petition and the facts alleged therein, that the petitioner is clearly possessed of the identification of two entities who may be liable in damages, one being the respondent, Boeing, and the other being the respondent, Malaysia Airlines, subject to the applicable provisions or applications of the Montreal Convention for claims against Malaysia Airlines," Flanagan wrote. "The Supreme Court Rule 224 petition exceeds the allowable scope of the rule, and must be dismissed."

Judge Flanagan also took a dim view of the fact that Ribbeck filed virtually identical petitions after fatal airliner crashes in San Francisco and Laos last year.

Both actions were dismissed for the same reasons that the law firm's latest efforts fail, according to the ruling.

"This court specifically made note of the fact that despite the orders in the Lao Airlines and Asiana Airlines dismissing the Rule 224 Petitions as unfounded, the same law firm had proceeded, yet again, with the filing of the Rule 224 Petition in the Malaysian Airlines case, knowing full well that there is no basis to do so," Flanagan wrote.

Should it do so again, she said, "The court will impose sanctions on its own motion."

Ribbeck Law attorney Monica Kelly said an appeal is in the works since "either the judge or us are not understanding Supreme Court Rule 224."

"We will let the appellate court decide this issue," Kelly said in a statement. "We had no problems with other judges and if this is something personal against our firm, it has to stop. The petition was dismissed without a hearing and without the parties being present. The first one to know was a reporter. There was no information in the docket or online."

The court filed nearly identical dismissal orders Friday and Monday.

Ribbeck's motions claimed that the negligence of "unknown individuals and entities in the design, manufacture, ownership, operation, lease, repair and maintenance" of the aircraft and its component parts was among the possible causes of the passenger jet's disappearance.

The law firm sought an order requiring the defendants to provide it with the names addresses and telephone numbers of all known owners of the aircraft from the date of manufacture to present, a variety of sales and lease agreements, and documents naming the identity of any and all individuals who provided training to the pilot's on the ill-fated flight.

Ribbeck also sought the identity of any Boeing employee assigned to Air Malaysia, and anyone who might have knowledge or evidence of "corrosion and fractures in the fuselage which could lead to catastrophic decompression of the cockpit."

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