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MH17 victim’s son forced to sell family home, Malaysia Airlines legal papers show

Tim Lauschet, with his dog Jax. He says his mother is “not here to fight for herself and I’m left by myself to do it”. Photo: Peter Rae

Tim Lauschet, who lost his mother Gabriele Lauschet in the downing of MH17 in July 2014. Photo: Peter Rae

Tim Lauschet, with his dog Jax. He says his mother is “not here to fight for herself and I’m left by myself to do it”. Photo: Peter Rae

Tim Lauschet, with his dog Jax. He says his mother is “not here to fight for herself and I’m left by myself to do it”. Photo: Peter Rae

The first legal papers filed against Malaysia Airlines in Australia reveal that the son of Sydney teacher Gabriele Lauschet​ who died on MH17 is being forced to sell the family home and has had to give up his job due to the loss of his mother.

As Prime Minister Tony Abbott led the commemoration service for the first anniversary of the loss of the flight in which 38 Australians were killed, legal papers were filed at the Supreme Court late on Friday by Sydney law firm LHD Lawyers on behalf of plaintiff Tim Lauschet​.

The claim includes “the loss and damage associated with the sale of the plaintiff’s deceased mother’s home following the incident. The plaintiff says that persons in his position are entitled to claim damages in respect of those matters.”

Mrs Lauschet, 48, who was engaged to be married this year, was a respected teacher at the German International School at Terrey Hills.

Mr Lauschet, 24, a labourer, has only received $50,000 in compensation but his lawyers argue that under internationally recognised aviation guidelines called the Montreal Convention, all families who lost loved ones should have straight away received “no questions asked” payments of $113,100. Accepting that sum would not preclude further, larger, claims says LHD Lawyers representing 12 families.

The summons also argues that Mr Lauschet is entitled to include in a claim damages for the loss of dependency as are other dependents of victims.

It states the plaintiff received his mother’s care, education, training, guidance, example and encouragement as well as financial, economic benefits and support.

It also adds: “The plaintiff suffered a recognised psychiatric and/or psychological injury as a result of the death of his deceased mother.”

“The plaintiff was not able to maintain his work after the incident and ceased work. The plaintiff’s present and future earning capacity is impaired,” it says.

Mr Lauschet, who lives in Stanhope Gardens, told Fairfax Media he was forced to pursue legal action because Malaysia Airlines had not answered questions sent by his lawyers in January. He said it was really hard at this time of the first anniversary.

“What choice do I have? Roll over and play dead?” he said.

“I’m angry and I’m shattered, the same as always. I’m trying to put my life back together but it’s really hard and Malaysia Airlines is not helping.”

Some have questioned why Flight MH17 was taking a “short cut” over Ukraine airspace, saying it may have been to reduce costs .

Asked if the legal process was to get justice for his mother, he added: “Absolutely. I want Malaysia Airlines to pay for putting fuel dollars ahead of my mother’s safety and then playing possum over responding to questions about the compensation. Now that’s an Aussie term they need to understand. Let’s see if they can play possum in court which is what this case is all about. Everyone should know that if they fly MA and they get killed, MA will play possum with compensation.

“I have read that Malaysia Airlines didn’t have a ‘robust’ way of picking flight paths. If that’s true it’s unforgivable and so, yes, this is about getting justice. She’s not here to fight for herself and I’m left by myself to do it.

“I’m hoping she would be proud of my stance. She was very gentle but pretty tough and survived a few very difficult battles of her own. I really don’t think she’d expect any less of me.”

LHD lawyer Jerry Skinner said that the summons was asking the court to define the list of what categories of damages were available to make up “at least” the $113,100 in compensation.

“We are suggesting there is a gap in the law which is what we are seeking to fill,” he said.

“Malaysia Airlines will not state how they are calculating what they offered to our client and the figures are all low. When the court defines that list it will demonstrate how short of the mark Malaysia Airlines is. The psychological loss is going to be greater than $113,100 so by including that in the list we are automatically going to get the full payment of $113,100 which will then allow our clients to sue for full damages and shift the burden on to Malaysia Airlines to prove it was not negligent. That’s a big procedural shift.

“At the moment this action is limited to Malaysia Airlines. It doesn’t mean there won’t be further action against Russia or the Ukraine.”

Mr Skinner said he would be writing to Prime Minister Tony Abbott again this week urging the Australian government to “add leverage” to support the legal process.

Malaysia Airlines did not appear to know the summons had been served.

It said in a statement: “Malaysia Airlines has not been served with any writ allegedly filed in the NSW Supreme Court.

“MAS has contacted all next-of-kin to conclude final compensation. However, some families have chosen to retain their own lawyers and MAS has requested that they submit details of their clients’ claims.

“Some families may have preferred to have the matter formally resolved by the court, as they are entitled to do. As MAS has no knowledge of the matter any comment at this stage would be speculative.”

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