Host: Joining me now, aviation trial attorney Michael Verna. He won $23 million settlement for the victims of flight 447. Also joining us, our CNN friend, Mary Schiavo, former Inspector General of the DOT, now represents victims of negligence by transportation companies, including airlines. Michael, let me ask you, do these families have any recourse legally if they get frustrated enough by the Malaysian investigation? There's no international court, there's no way to change jurisdiction to force changes in who leads this investigation?
Michael: Well, no, under international treaties that apply to this accident, both the ICAO Annex 13 investigations as well as the Montreal Convention, jurisdiction is reposed in either Malaysia, China, or the place of domicile of the passengers. So they do have legal recourse through that process, but to compel the Malaysian government to do more than what it's been doing, it requires actions in Malaysia. I will say that in the United States, we have something called the Family Assistance Act that was passed about 20 years ago and that has been applied most recently to result in a fine of $500,000 against Asiana Airlines because they didn't treat the passengers properly in accordance with that Act in the United States with the crash that occurred in San Francisco.
Host: Yeah, that was the one where he missed the runway there in the Bay Area. What does that mean? What didn't they do that cost them a half a million bucks?
Michael: Well, in the United States . . . now I guess this law, of course, this law would not apply to Malaysia Airlines in Malaysia, but in the United States, since I believe it was 1996, there is federal law that requires airlines to have contingency plans, emergency plans in the case of a disaster like this, and to provide lodging, food, transportation, counseling etc., to the passengers so the passengers have some sense of what is going on or, in case of accidents involving death, the families have some sense of what's going on, and they are comforted the best the airline can. That did not happen to the degree it's supposed to happen in the Asiana case, and as a result, the Department of Transportation fined them. So if this accident involving Malaysia Airlines had occurred in the United States, they'd have to comply with that Act.
Host: Victims of that crash were never found. Is there a person or family you met that sticks with you?
Michael: Oh, absolutely, they all stick with us. I mean, this incalculable sense of grief and loss that these families have, but unlike Air France and frankly, unlike any accident I've ever seen in my 30 years of practice, here we don't even know what happened some 12, 13 days after the accident. I mean, it's one thing for a family to lose a loved one in a horrible crash and deal with the immediacy of that, it's quite something else when we don't even know if there's been a crash. We don't know what happened and there doesn't appear to be on the near horizon any answers that are going to be forthcoming to these families. On top of that . . .
Host: Have you been in contact . . . I'm sorry, go ahead.
Michael: I was going to say on top of the fact that there have been 12 days here where people have no answers to what's going on, don't know what happened to their loved ones in those 12 days or in the last minutes of this flight if, in fact, it did crash, we also have some investigations suggesting other people, perhaps, besides the pilots, may have gained access to the cockpit. So in effect, that means there are 237 suspects on this aircraft in addition to the two pilots. So those kinds of issues are not something that the families need to be dealing with, and frankly, I think all the speculation out there as to what happened in this accident when we don't have the facts is not doing a service to the families.
Host: Michael, we appreciate that thought.