Tort Law

Asiana drops planned suit against TV station that aired fake pilot names

Updated: Asiana Airlines has announced it will not sue a California television station that broadcast fake names of the pilots in the crash of Flight 214 that killed three passengers.

Airline spokespersons had announced Monday that the airline had decided to sue KTVU-TV to “strongly respond to its racially discriminatory report” last Friday that disparaged Asians, the Associated Press reports. Asiana retained a U.S. law firm and planned to sue for defamation, according to CNN.

The station has apologized for broadcasting the fake names, which included “Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo” and “Bang Ding Ow.” On Wednesday, the airline announced that it had accepted KTVU’s apology and would drop the suit, according to CNN.

KTVU had contacted the National Transportation Safety Board to confirm the names, and an intern there confirmed the “inaccurate and offensive” information, according to an NTSB spokesperson. The station has not said who provided the incorrect names.

Legal experts who spoke to CNN and a Washington Post columnist didn’t give a defamation suit much chance of success. The Post suggests that any loss of business suffered by the airline would be attributable to the crash rather than the fake pilot names. Because the airline would be treated as a public figure, Asiana would have to show actual malice by the station, a high hurdle given KTVU’s apologies, the Post says.

Boston lawyer Jeffrey Pyle told the Post that a claim can’t be based on racial insensitivity. “There’s no legal claim that you have against somebody for being unintentionally racist or intentionally racist,” he said.

Updated July 17 after airline announced it was dropping the suit.

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