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United Airlines Agrees $30 Million Settlement After Disabled Passenger Was Left in Permanent Coma in Deplaning Mishap

United Airlines Agrees $30 Million Settlement After Disabled Passenger Was Left in Permanent Coma in Deplaning Mishap

a white airplane on a runway

United Airlines has reportedly agreed to a $30 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by the family of a quadriplegic passenger who was left in a permanent coma following a deplaning accident on February 8, 2019.

Details of the settlement were accidentally made public on Wednesday after officials in the District Court for Northern California mistakenly published confidential information surrounding the case before later retracting the documents.

The family of Nathaniel Foster Jr. sued United Airlines after he went into cardiac arrest as ground staff attempted to move him off a United Express plane at Monroe Airport in Louisiana, where they were visiting to attend a family funeral.

Up until the day of the accident, Nathaniel, 21, had been attending college and was hoping to one day become a physician, although he was quadriplegic and had to use a tracheal tube, ventilator and powered wheelchair due to a separate accident in 2016.

On arrival in Monroe, the lawsuit alleged that just one person was sent to help move Nathaniel off the aircraft, despite the fact that it usually took at least four helpers to safely move Nathaniel in an aisle wheelchair.

When Nathaniel’s family questioned whether anyone else was coming to help, the ground worker dismissed their concerns, telling them, “I know what I’m doing”, before abandoning Nathaniel and telling the family to “do it yourself” when they requested additional assistance.

Two ground staff then attempted to move Nathaniel, with one holding his ventilator and the other controlling the aisle chair.

The lawsuit alleged that the ground worker “aggressively” pushed the aisle chair along the narrow aisle, causing Nathaniel’s feet to drag along the floor and for him to sway and slip on several occasions.

As they got to the aircraft door, the aisle chair was pushed forcefully, causing Nathaniel’s body to jerk forward and back and then slump forward. He whispered that he couldn’t breathe as his lips turned a dark shade of purple.

A cardiac surgeon who was waiting to board a flight offered to assist, but one of the ground workers giggled and dismissed him, saying: “We got this”.

Nathaniel was then removed from the chair and laid on the ground, where he went into cardiac arrest. His family immediately started CPR, and the doctor was eventually called back to assist before emergency responders arrived at the scene.

Despite quick medical intervention, Nathienel remains in a coma, and his long-term prognosis is poor.

The settlement was reached after a jury trial had already begun earlier this month. In a statement, United Airlines told Reuters that it was “pleased” the matter had been settled.

“Our top priority is to provide a safe journey for all our customers, especially those who require additional assistance or the use of a wheelchair,” a spokesperson for the airline said.

View Comments (3)
  • Just wish those giggling ground staff would be held responsible for their actions. If the guy had died, they would definitely be responsible for manslaughter.

  • As an anaesthesiologist and critical care physician, this gentleman was clearly an incredibly complex patient, with a tracheostomy and ventilator, and the most significant of mobility restrictions. We’d normally require several trained medical/nursing personnel to facilitate a transfer of such a fragile patient and even the idea that airline personnel would have even the first idea how to move/handle this patient safely completely baffles me. They will in no way have had appropriate training to manage this (as arguably they shouldn’t) so how the passenger was accepted for travel without adequate trained people travelling with him sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

  • $30 million is obscene. The man was already a quadriplegic with a ventilator. It might be more understandable if he was completely healthy and now in a coma but much of this should be attributed to his 2016 accident. It is wrong to keep him in a coma as his hope of recovery in 20 years would be a miracle but would be a miracle into a Quadriplegic body. Let this man rest in peace and end the madness of excessive settlements because juries are rubber stamps for sob stories.

    It also is ridiculous why companies and shareholders are responsible for the actions of bad employees. Same with tax payers being on the hook for the actions of cops. Blame the individuals who were careless. They were derelict in their duty. They should pay. Blame unions and the govt. for forcing companies to keep on bad employees as they can be sued for terminating bad employees and are often afraid to fire people. Blame the govt. for forcing airlines to move disabled people. People who need this type of care should not be flying commercial.

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