Zhengheng Xie, a professor at Shanghai University, was flying to visit his son when the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crashed on approach to the San Francisco airport.
Xie broke his spine in the July 6 crash of Flight 214 that killed three people and injured about 180 others, and he remains in a body cast, his attorney, Michael Verna, said.
Xie and his wife, Wei Song, are seeking $5 million in damages from the South Korean airline, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The suit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Per international treaty rules, most of Xie's fellow passengers will only be allowed to sue in their home countries -- where damage awards are harder to come by, the Chronicle said.
Michael Danko, an attorney who specializes in airline suits, said international passengers can sue in five places: where the airline has its principal base of business, where the airline is incorporated, where the ticket was purchased, the home country of the injured person or the round-trip's final destination.
Although Xie does not have U.S. citizenship and didn't have a one-way ticket, he is able to sue in federal court because his son bought the plane ticket in the United States, Verna said.
Pregnant Mila Kunis wins 'Best Villain' at MTV Movie Awards
'Happy' fan videos make Pharrell cry [VIDEO]