Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Swissair argues against damages

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Swissair wants to know if a U.S. law on "high seas" deaths bars the families of people killed in a crash off Peggy's Cove from seeking a billion dollars in damages for pain and suffering.

Swissair lawyers asked a federal judge yesterday to decide whether the families, who are negotiating a possible legal settlement with the airline, are entitled to punitive damages.

Families of victims have asked U.S. district Judge James Giles to reject a settlement package worth about $300 million US because it would limit an estimated $1 billion in punitive damages.

They argue such an agreement would keep the families from learning the full extent of any potential misconduct involved in the September 1998 crash that killed 229 people.

But yesterday, Swissair lawyers asked Giles to determine whether damages could be limited under the Death on the High Seas Act.

The law only allows for the recovery of compensatory damages, or real losses associated with income and medical costs, and not punitive damages.

Swissair Flight 111 was bound from New York to Geneva when it plunged into the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 2, 1998.

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