A team of local and international advocates is laying the groundwork to sue US aircraft manufacturer Boeing for the deaths of Kenyans in last month’s Ethiopian Airlines crash.
Nairobi-based lawyers Irungu Kang’ata, Mohammed Nyaoga and Geoffrey Imende have joined forces with Carlos Velasquez, Laban Opande and Solomon Musyimi who practise in the United States to represent Kenyan families who lost relatives in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
According to Mr Opande, the team has so far reached out to 10 families and hopes to enjoin more in the case before they file claims in the Federal Court of Chicago next week.
They intend to sue the company for compensation of the families of those who died in the crash.
“Initially two families sought our services. We had intended to write the documents remotely, but we decided that meeting them in person would be better and more human. We came into the country on Sunday, and have been meeting families since Monday,” said Mr Opande Wednesday.
He said the first two families have already signed contracts with the lawyers while the rest are still waiting to make a decision on getting legal representation. He declined to name the families they are representing.
The March 10 plane crash claimed all 157 lives on board. About 30 countries lost their citizens, with Kenya being the most affected losing 36 citizens.
As per the Montreal Convention of 1999, Mr Opande said, the manufacturer is liable to pay for damages of up to Sh17 million for proven deaths, but could pay more depending on the financial needs of the deceased’s kin.
He described the case as a ‘shoo-in’ considering that an Indonesian aircraft by the same manufacturer was involved in a fatal accident last October, killing all 181 passengers and eight crew members.
Mr Kangáta, who is also the Murang’a Senator, urged the affected families to join the suit and get the compensation that they deserve following the loss of their loved ones.
“The families that have been wondering how they can take on a big American corporate like Boeing should not be scared. They can get help,” he told journalists at a Nairobi hotel Wednesday.
Mr Velasquez, a US-based attorney specialising in aviation litigation, said that experts have already been contacted to help build a case against the plane manufacturer.