United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
In re: Air Crash Over the Southern Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014,
Malaysia Airlines Berhad, doing business as Malaysia Airlines, et al., Appellees Elizabeth Smith, As personal representative of the Spouses, Next of Kin, Other Statutory Beneficiaries, and the Estates of the MH370 Passengers (See Complaint for Statutory Beneficiaries), et al., Appellants
November 25, 2019.
Appeals from the United States District Court for the
District of Columbia (No. 1:16-mc-01184)
Stephen F. Rosenthal argued the cause for appellants Thomas
C. Gaspard, et al. With him on the briefs was Floyd A.
Caitlyn E. Hubbard argued the cause for appellant Thomas
Wood. With her on the briefs were Marianne M. Auld and Hugh
G. Connor II.
Schiavo was on the brief for appellants Elizabeth Smith, et
al. Jodi W. Flowers entered an appearance.
B. Wolff argued the cause for appellees. With him on the
joint brief were Gregory F. Miller, Telly Andrews, and
Richard A. Walker. Eric J. Rhine entered an appearance.
Before: Wilkins and Rao, Circuit Judges, and Randolph, Senior
appeal arises out of the unexplained disappearance of
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 somewhere over the Southern
Indian Ocean in the early hours of March 8, 2014. A series of
extensive searches and investigations conducted over more
than four years yielded no definitive answers as to the cause
of this tragedy, and all passengers and crew members on board
the flight are presumed dead. Representatives of many of the
passengers filed lawsuits in the United States asserting,
inter alia, Montreal Convention claims against
Malaysia Airlines Systems Berhad, Malaysia's national
airline at the time of Flight MH370, its current national
airline, Malaysia Airlines Berhad, and the airlines'
insurers, as well as state law products liability and
wrongful death claims against Boeing, which manufactured the
aircraft in question in Washington state.
lawsuits were centralized into a multidistrict litigation in
the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
and coordinated for pretrial purposes. Appellees moved
jointly to dismiss for forum non conveniens and the
district court granted that motion in full, concluding that
Malaysia is a more convenient forum to hear all of the
appellants' claims. While the Court has great sympathy
for the victims of this tragedy and their families, we cannot
disregard the narrow standard governing our review in this
case. We conclude that the district court did not clearly
abuse its discretion in dismissing appellants' lawsuits
for forum non conveniens and affirm the decision in
district court's opinion recounts the factual history
surrounding Flight MH370's disappearance and the ensuing
investigations in detail. See In re Air Crash Over S.
Indian Ocean, 352 F.Supp.3d 19 (D.D.C. 2018). We will
therefore focus only on the facts pertinent to this appeal.
Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur
International Airport in Malaysia to Beijing, China, early in
the morning on March 8, 2014. On board Flight MH370 were 227
passengers and 12 Malaysian crew members. The 227 passengers
were of 14 nationalities, including 152 Chinese citizens, 38
Malaysian citizens, and 3 United States citizens. The
aircraft in question was a Boeing 777-2H6ER that was designed
and manufactured at Boeing's facility in Washington state
and delivered to the airline in new condition in May 2002.
extensive search for the missing aircraft ensued following
the plane's disappearance. The search team ultimately
concluded that Flight MH370 likely crashed in the Southern
Indian Ocean after running out of fuel, but neither the plane
nor other critical pieces of evidence, such as the cockpit
voice recorder and flight data recorder, were recovered. In
addition to the search for physical evidence, the Malaysian
government took the lead on a separate civil investigation
into why Flight MH370 had disappeared. This investigation
culminated in a 449-page report, which concluded that while
the investigation team was "unable to determine the real
cause for the disappearance of MH370," human
interference or error were more likely the cause of the
plane's disappearance than aircraft or system
malfunction. In connection with this investigation and a
related criminal investigation, the civil investigation team
and the ...