SAN FRANCISCO – In response to the first lawsuit stemming from the crash landing of Asiana Flight 214, the South Korean airline denied responsibility and said passengers contributed to their own injuries while at the same time quietly offering each one $10,000.
Asiana’s denial of responsibility, made in a filing in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, is “standard stuff,” said Gerald Sterns, an attorney with offices in Oakland and San Francisco who handles aviation cases but is not a party to any litigation related to the Asiana crash.
“A lot of people get inflamed by that: ‘How could this airline say that?’ ” Sterns said. “The standard defenses are: ‘It didn’t happen. If it did happen, we didn’t do it. If your guy got hurt, he caused his own injuries.’ ”
The new developments follow a series of public relations missteps by the South Korean airline after its Boeing 777 crashed. Asiana’s chief executive declined to speak to the South Korean and U.S. reporters who mobbed him when he landed at San Francisco International Airport, and no one spoke on his behalf. The airline also failed to keep up with a steady flow of crash-related information emanating from other organizations such as the National Transportation Safety Board, and was criticized for threatening to sue television station KTVU for airing bogus and culturally insensitive names of the four pilots who were on board.
Asiana’s response to his lawsuit still angered the California lawyer who filed the first two suits related to the crash.
“I’m astounded that Asiana would blame the passengers for its gross negligence in not being able to safely land this aircraft,” said attorney Michael Verna. “The very first filing in the very first lawsuit in this case in a public courtroom is to blame the passengers for causing the accident. I’m not only astounded, I’m incensed.”
Asiana officials did not respond to a request for comment on Monday and have previously said they will not address litigation surrounding the July 6 crash at San Francisco International Airport, in which three Chinese teenage girls died and dozens of others were injured.
The legal issues surrounding the crash are complicated because the airline is based in South Korea and most of the passengers are not U.S. citizens, limiting legal liabilities. Nearly half – 141 – came from China. The next largest group of passengers – 77 – were from South Korea.