However, Pitre and others say, the foreign passengers are still able to sue others who may have contributed to the accident, such as the plane's manufacturer, airport personnel and even, perhaps, the first responders.
Pitre said he and his clients are investigating whether Boeing Co. shoulders any responsibility for the crash, including potential design flaws in the plane's automated instruments or differences between first-class passengers' seatbelts, which come with a shoulder strap, and the seatbelts in the economy section, which are lap restraints only.
Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said the company buys seats from other companies and "simply installs them." He also said the seat belt designs and configurations are mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Birtel declined to discuss the other issues Pitre raised.
Authorities said Friday that 15-year-old Liu Yipeng was struck by a fire truck, although it's not clear whether that killed her. Some passengers who called 911 immediately after the crash also complained that the emergency response took too long. Those third parties and others are open to lawsuits in the United States.
San Francisco officials said ambulances could not immediately come too close to the plane out of concern the aircraft would explode.
Associated Press Writer Youkyung Lee contributed to this report from Seoul, South Korea.