x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Airline ordered to pay victim's family Dh864,000 six years after plane crash

Kish Air must pay Dh864,000 to family of Emirati who died in Sharjah crash - less than the family wanted, but more than the airline said it was liable for.

Iranian and Emirati experts inspecting the plane that crashed in Sharjah, killing 43 people on board.
Iranian and Emirati experts inspecting the plane that crashed in Sharjah, killing 43 people on board.

ABU DHABI // An Iranian airline has been ordered to pay Dh864,000 to the family of an Emirati killed in a crash six years ago - far less than the family wanted, but almost 12 times more than the airline said it should have to pay.

Kish Air Flight 7170 crashed on the morning of February 10, 2004, as it approached Sharjah International Airport. Forty-three of the 46 people on board were killed, including the one Emirati on the plane. In 2007, his family began legal action against Iran-based Kish Air, demanding Dh14 million in compensation, including financial and moral damages for the death of the man, the breadwinner for eight children and his wife.

The Sharjah Court of First Instance later ruled that the company must pay the equivalent of 250,000 Swiss francs - about Dh864,000 - plus five per cent interest for every year that goes by before it makes the payout. That is the amount stipulated by the Warsaw Convention, which regulates air travel and to which the UAE is a signatory. Both the company and the family appealed, but the Sharjah Court of Appeals upheld the verdict.

The case then went to the Federal Supreme Court in October 2009, and it has ruled that the airline must pay the amount awarded by the lower court. The airline claimed it was not liable for any compensation because the accident was not its fault, although a General Civil Aviation Authority investigation found that pilot error was the cause. The airline argued that even if it were liable, the plane ticket stated a liability cap of US$20,000 (Dh73,400). It also argued the Warsaw Convention did not apply to it because Iran was not a signatory.

The Supreme Court ruled last week that if an air carrier's ticket contract stipulates a maximum compensation for injuries, it must be above the limit set by international treaties. Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention states: "The carrier is liable for damage sustained in the event of the death or wounding of a passenger or any other bodily injury suffered by a passenger, if the accident which caused the damage so sustained took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking."

Justice Abdulaziz Mohammed said the Hague Convention, which is the most recent amendment to the Warsaw Convention, restated the liability cap of 250,000 Swiss francs. "This rule does not apply if the air carrier or its affiliates proved they took all necessary measures or precautions to avoid the damage," Justice Mohammed wrote in a document released this week. "The air carrier and its passengers can agree on a different amount, but it should be more than the amount set by the Warsaw Convention," Justice Mohammed wrote.

The Supreme Court rejected the argument that Iran was not a signatory because it had not been included in the company's defence before the lower courts. A Kish Air spokesperson in the UAE said the airline was in the process of settling the payment with the family, but added: "The airline would not pay. It is the insurance company. The matter is being dealt with at the headquarters in Iran, not here." hhassan@thenational.ae

October 2, 2009 All six crew are killed when a Sudan-based Azza Transport cargo plane crashes shortly after take-off from Sharjah. The Boeing 707-320 was en route to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. The cause is under investigation. February 10, 2004 A Kish Air flight crashes, killing 43 of the 46 people on board. The Fokker 50 aircraft was en route from the Iranian island of Kish to Sharjah. Many of the people killed were renewing their visas. Pilot error is blamed for the crash. December 15, 1997 A Tajik Air flight from Tajikistan to the UAE crashes on approach to Sharjah International Airport, killing 85 of the 86 people on board. The survivor is a crew member. An investigation blames pilot error.