We are continuing our discussion from our Feb. 3 post. A widower has filed a wrongful death claim against several airlines, some of which service West Virginia airports. He says the carriers' mistreatment of his wife, who was morbidly obese, contributed to her death last fall.
The couple was abroad when their difficulties began. Attempting to get home quickly, they had contacted the airlines and made the necessary arrangements -- including purchasing two seats for the woman. When they boarded, they realized their assigned seats were broken. Instead of offering them different seats, the crew ordered the couple off the plane.
They tried again. Again, they checked in, picked up their boarding passes and went to board the plane. The airline, however, did not have the right kind of wheelchair. Again, they were told to get off the plane, this time with an airline employee's insult: Delta "did not have access to a skylift."
Their third attempt also failed. This time, the couple received boarding passes for all legs of their journey home and were almost settled into their row of seats when the captain ordered them off the plane. The reason? "Other passengers needed to catch a connecting flight and cannot be delayed further." According to the plaintiff, getting the couple off the plane took half an hour.
The woman died before other arrangements could be made.
The lawsuit states that the couple and their travel agent worked with the airlines diligently to ensure that the woman's special needs were accommodated. The widower says now that the airlines acted in "willful, wanton and reckless disregard" of his wife's condition. He is asking for $6 million in damages.
Obesity is classified as a disability, but the condition remains controversial. Airlines and other transportation companies serving the public are required by law to accommodate people with disabilities, but airlines especially have concerns about weight distribution in their planes. This lawsuit raises many tough issues for individuals like the victim and her husband.
Source: ABC News, "Airlines Face $6M Lawsuit for Obese Woman's Death," Genevieve Shaw Brown, Feb. 1, 2013
Our practice works with clients like the plaintiff in this post on wrongful death lawsuits. You can learn more about our Charleston, West Virginia, firm at our website.