The families of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 passengers will not be allowed to seek the help of two American lawyers they wanted to join their case. Malaysian high court judge Hanipah Farikullah ruled Friday that the MH370 victims' relatives were adequately represented and did not need Florida aviation attorneys Steven C. Marks and Roy Kalman Altman on their team, according to the Malay Mail Online.
"The plaintiffs may call legal foreign experts to testify, and I believe Tommy Thomas has sufficient experience to conduct the case," Farikullah said, naming the Malaysian attorney who filed the lawsuit.
Earlier this year, more than 70 next-of-kin of 32 people who were on MH370 when it disappeared in 2014 filed a lawsuit against the airline, the Malaysian government and the Royal Malaysian Air Force. The Chinese, Indian and American plaintiffs claim the plane's likely crash resulted from negligence. They're seeking damages for their loved ones' deaths.
The family members involved in the lawsuit wanted to enlist Marks and Altman to help their case. Marks has represented clients in connection with SilkAir Flight 185, which crashed and killed more than 100 people in 1997, while Altman has been worked on cases like Germanwings Flight 9525, which wrecked in the French Alps and caused the deaths of 150 last year. The MH370 relatives said they wanted Marks and Altman's expertise for their lawsuit, Free Malaysia Today reported.
But the judge blocked the American attorneys from getting involved. Hanipah said Malaysian lawyers were capable of dealing with the case themselves.
While the legal drama played out in court, the search for debris from the still-missing plane continued in the Indian Ocean. A recent operational update from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the agency leading the hunt, pushed back the search's estimated end date. Instead of wrapping up by December, the bureau predicted it would be finished scanning for wreckage "around January/February 2017."
At that point, without further evidence to investigate, the hunt will be suspended. However, people interested in the mysterious vanishing of MH370 shouldn't think the saga is over.
"Should credible new information emerge that can be used to identify the specific location of the aircraft, consideration will be given to determining next steps," the bureau wrote.