CHARLESTON — Illinois law will make it hard for relatives of those presumed lost on ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to succeed in suing Boeing, the maker of the lost aircraft, over the presumed crash, even if the family members bring their lawsuits in courts outside Illinois.
Recently, a South Carolina man filed suit in a federal district court in the Palmetto State against Boeing for alleged product liability, breach of warranties and negligence for the disappearance of Flight 370 in 2014.
Gregory Keith filed the suit on March 3 on behalf of himself and over 40 family members of passengers on the flight.
Although Boeing is located in Illinois, the case was filed in South Carolina because of Keith's residence. Illinois law, however, will likely still apply in this case and make it harder for the plaintiffs to win, according to Katherine Calhoun, an aerospace attorney at the firm of SmithAmundsen.
“In Illinois, when you don’t have physical evidence, it's very hard to prove your case,” Calhoun told the Cook County Record.
Nothing has been discovered of the missing plane, which gives the plaintiffs no hard evidence to use.
“The facts of this case are novel,” Calhoun said. “We don’t have a plane, we don’t have a black box, we don’t know what happened.”
The plaintiffs are trying to prove that, because the plane went down, something must have been wrong with the aircraft. Calhoun said she does not believe that argument will hold up under Illinois law.
Illinois courts have rejected similar liability cases in the past, but Calhoun said there are always exceptions.
“One way the plaintiffs could circumvent the physical evidence is to hire experts to testify, but experts still need a basis for the facts,” Calhoun said.
However, even expert testimonies would likely prove to be too speculative without the plane or the aircraft's so-called black box data recorder.
A similar case was previously filed and dismissed in Illinois. The case has since been transferred to join a multi-district litigation case in a Washington D.C. district court.
More than 30 cases have joined the multi-district litigation, which will be heard by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.