A partially paralyzed man claims that Delta Airlines workers forced him to crawl on and off two flights in 2012. The lawsuit, brought in 2013, has just been settled.
The Maui man sued Delta over allegations that airline workers forced him to crawl on and off the flights the prior year and that the airline did not provide a wheelchair or other assistance on either of the 2012 flights, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The man has been unable to walk since he was in a car accident in 2000. According to the lawsuit, he allegedly had to crawl across the tarmac, up and down the plane’s stairs, and down the aisle to his seat, both coming to and leaving from Nantucket, Massachusetts. The lawsuit described the ordeals as humiliating and caused the man with what was described as “wrenching pain” just one week before a scheduled spinal fusion surgery, the AP reported.
The man alleges he advised a Delta representative prior to the flight that he would require a lift to enter and exit the plane and an aisle chair to get to his seat. The representative, according to the lawsuit, advised him that his requests were not a problem, according to The Daily Mail. When he was advised, at the airport, that the airline did not have an aisle seat or lift and he asked how he was to board the plain, he alleges he was told, “’I don’t know, but we can’t get you off the plane,” the complaint indicated. The man also alleged to be able to see an available lift at an adjacent gate.
Delta was accused of negligence and of noncompliance with the Airline Carrier Access Act due to its not having an aisle chair to help the man to his seat, not having a lift to assist him up and down stairs, and not providing assistance from the plane to the man’s wheelchair. “Purportedly fearful of liability,” the suit stated, “the flight crew refused to assist” the man, “instead serving as spectators themselves,” the AP reported.
The man alleged in the lawsuit that he called Delta in advance to arrange for assistance before both flights and both times, the airline assured him that his needs would be accommodated, the AP wrote. According to lawsuit allegations, when he arrived for his return flight, Delta offered a piece of cardboard to enable him to crawl across the tarmac to protect his clothing. When he later spoke to the airline to complain, Delta representatives allegedly offered him 25,000 frequent-flier miles, reducing the offer to about 12,000 when he pushed the matter. He followed with a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the AP wrote, “went nowhere.” Ultimately, he filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Hawaii in June 2013.
He also said that, during these events, he was wearing his “best suit” and forced to have to crawl “hand-over-hand” with no assistance and as crew and passengers watched. He alleged that the events caused him “great physical and emotional suffering,” according to The Daily Mail. In 2013, he told Hawaii News Now, “I can feel literally my spine was like someone had a sledgehammer and they were pounding a ten-inch spike in my sacral, hammering away…. My thoracic, I could hear pops and clicks… My initial feeling was absolute shock, kind of like Twilight Zone feeling.”
The man, a former college professor was traveling from Maui, Hawaii, where he lives, to Nantucket Island, according to The Daily Mail. Although the terms of the settlement are confidential, Hawaii News Now reports that the settlement is believed to be substantial.
Airplanes and airports with a seating capacity of 31 or more passengers must “provide boarding assistance to individuals with disabilities by using ramps, mechanical lifts, or other suitable devices where level-entry boarding by loading bridge or mobile lounge is not available,” according to the Air Carrier Access Act, The Daily Mail reported.
Meanwhile, a similar incident took place in 2008 and involved a woman diagnosed with muscular dystrophy who was also forced to crawl off two Delta Airline flights, The Daily Mail reported.