Belli Files Wrongful Death Suit on Behalf of KAL Crash Victims

From a Times Staff Writer

Attorney Melvin Belli has filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of 26 Korean passengers who died in the Aug. 31, 1983, crash of Korean Airlines Flight 007, which was shot down by a Soviet fighter plane when it flew through Soviet air space on its way from Anchorage to Seoul, Korea.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on Monday and alleges that the U.S. government, the Boeing Co., Litton Industries Inc. and Litton Systems Inc. behaved negligently and were in part responsible for the jet’s crash, which killed 269 passengers.

“The U.S. negligently undertook to provide ground control services,” said Paul Monzione, an attorney from Belli’s office who is working on the crash case. “By taking over those services they then had the duty to warn the flight personnel that they were over Soviet territory, and they did not do that.”


The suit asks that the survivors of each of the 26 Koreans named in the suit be paid $78 million in actual and punitive damages. Belli has filed suits on behalf of 58 other Flight 007 passengers, a spokesman from his San Francisco office said.

Because suits have been filed nationwide as a result of Flight 007, the separate cases have been transferred to Washington, D.C., where they will be heard by the same judge. A panel of attorneys has also been named to coordinate the plaintiffs’ cases. According to Donald Madole, co-chairman of the panel, lawsuits on behalf of more than 200 victims have been filed in addition to the 26 filed Monday.

Attorneys for the U.S. government, Boeing and Litton refused Monday to comment on the case because of a gag order handed down earlier by U.S. District Judge Aubrey Robinson, Madole said.