American Airlines Lawsuit Claims Man Died Of Food Poisoning

An emerging American Airlines lawsuit claims that a man died of food poisoning from food he consumed from his in-flight meal.
Othon Cortes’ wife and daughter are suing American Airlines and Sky Chefs, its caterer, for more than $1 million, said USA Today. The lawsuit alleges that Cortes consumed bacteria-contaminated food when he was flying from Barcelona, Spain, to New York. According to the lawsuit, the incident occurred on May 18 after Cortes allegedly consumed a chicken meal on his flight. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Miami.

International Business Times (IBT) wrote that the lawsuit alleges that Cortes’ chicken meal was contaminated with the potentially deadly bacteria Clostridium perfingens.

Clostridium perfringens is an intestinal and fecal bacteria that is, explained the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), generally accompanied by intense abdominal cramps and diarrhea which typically onsets within 8-22 hours after consuming C. perfringen-contaminated foods. The illness lasts about one day, but some symptoms can linger for 1-2 weeks. Deaths have been reported in illnesses in which dehydration and other complications have been seen, said the FDA.

The lawsuit alleges that Cortes, 73, suffered severe stomach pains and a “clear outward manifestation of severe physical illness” after the American Airlines flight landed at JFK Airport in New York, said USA Today. While the Corteses were able to make their connecting flight to Miami, Othon Cortes suffered nausea and shortness of breath while on the flight; the flight had to be diverted to Norfolk, Virginia, after he suffered “a cardiac event,” said USA Today. Cortes was declared dead just after landing.

The lawsuit claims that American Airlines and SkyChef failed “to properly maintain or prepare the food” and that “AA was negligent in allowing Othon to board the domestic flight, failing to provide medical attention, and waiting too long to (opt for) an emergency landing,” according to USA Today.

“We’re not aware of receiving any complaints regarding passengers whom the airlines should have denied boarding due to illness but who nevertheless were allowed to fly,” U.S. Department of Transportation spokesman, Bill Mosley, told MSNBC.

Robert Quigley, regional medical director of the Americas Region for International SOS, told MSNBC that food poisoning symptoms typically take about 12 – 24 hours to appear, “although certain types of very virulent bacteria do manifest within six hours,” according to USA Today. Quigley noted that heart attacks occur on flights more often that most realized.

The symptoms of C. perfringen are generally a result of ingesting large numbers of the cells in food. Typically, C. perfringen illness is caused by prepared food temperature abuse. Small amounts of the bacteria, present after cooking, multiply to food poisoning levels during food cool down and storage. Meats, meat products, and gravy are the foods most frequently implicated.

In vulnerable groups, symptoms of the illness may last 1-2 weeks.

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