Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lawyers for Families of Germanwings’ Victims Say Compensation Offer Too Low: Lawyers say they will contest Lufthansa’s Offer

The Wall Street Journal 
June 30, 2015 1:28 p.m. ET

FRANKFURT—Lawyers representing some of the families of those killed in the Germanwings crash on Tuesday criticized Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s offer of compensation, calling it far below an appropriate level.

Lufthansa has offered the families of German victims €25,000 per passenger ($27,880), plus €10,000 for each immediate next of kin, to cover immaterial damage. That brings the total minimum compensation per victim to €85,000, including the €50,000 Lufthansa offered each family to cover material costs immediately after the crash.

The airline also put aside larger sums in the form of trusts for the future needs of victims’ families.

The March crash killed 150 people, including Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who prosecutors say deliberately crashed the plane in the French Alps. The plane was en route to Düsseldorf from Barcelona, with predominantly German and Spanish passengers on board.

Lawyers for the victims’ families criticized the compensation as inadequate. Elmar Giemulla, a Berlin-based lawyer who represents 34 German families, said he would contest it.

“Lufthansa has made a completely unacceptable offer,” he said. “The €10,000 should be a six-digit figure.”

Christof Wellens, who represents another 31 German and non-German families, also called the offer insufficient. He also plans to challenge it and will look into legal possibilities if Lufthansa declines to negotiate. There were people of various nationalities on board, including U.K. and U.S., opening the possibility of pursuing cases outside Germany, he said.

Lufthansa stressed that the €25,000 and €10,000 sums cover only immaterial damages, such as pain and suffering. It would settle material needs individually, possibly on top of the €50,000 paid after the crash, and in compliance with the German victims compensation act.

Lufthansa’s offer may also apply to non-German victims whose claims will be settled according to German law. Claims by Spanish victims will be settled based on Spanish law, Lufthansa said. It is still unclear how victims with other nationalities will be treated.

“It is still open whether for U.K. or U.S. victims their national legislation applies,” said Michael Niggemann, chief lawyer of Lufthansa.

Compensation for families following airplane crashes fluctuate widely, depending on the country and circumstances. In the U.S., settlements are generally higher than in Europe.

Lufthansa said it would set up a €7.8 million fund to support the education of the children of victims. A further €6 million is available for individual needs, with payments to be determined by a board of trustees. In addition, Lufthansa will set up memorial sites in four locations.

Lufthansa in April set aside around $300 million in connection with the crash. It said that amount was based on preliminary assessments and can be adjusted. It includes compensation payments to passengers’ relatives, the hull insurance value of the aircraft, accident support and investigation service at the crash site, and legal support and assistance.

The payment for the destroyed aircraft will be handled by a separate consortium of insurers.

Lufthansa defined next of kin as parents, biological and adopted children, spouses or significant others with a shared address. However, it wouldn’t rule out that brothers or sisters of victims could be entitled to damage payments.

—Sarah Sloat contributed to this article.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.wsj.com

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