The widow and family members of a man who fell ill during a United Airlines flight to Guatemala City and died shortly after deplaning the aircraft claim flight attendants failed to provide their deceased relative with medical assistance despite being reportedly told he was sick.
Delfino Raul Velasco Maldonado was traveling with his wife Marina on the United Airlines flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Guatemala City in March 2022 when he started to suffer from an unspecirfied medical condition according to a lawsuit filed in a California district court earlier this week.
During the four-hour flight, Marina says she told the flight attendants at least twice that her husband wasn’t feeling well and required medical assistance. The lawsuit alleges that the flight attendants failed to heed Marina’s warnings and didn’t offer any form of medical assistance to her husband.
Marina and her husband deplaned the aircraft as normal, cleared customs and made it all the way to the airport exit when he suddenly collapsed. Marina and onlookers rushed to Delfino’s aid and attempted to resuscitate him but by the time paramedics arrived he was declared dead.
The family is sueing United Airlines under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention, an international law that holds airlines liable for death or injury sustained by passengers onboard an aircraft or during boarding and deplaning.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Delfino’s family argue that the failure of the flight attendants to provide medical assistance constitutes an ‘accident’ under the Montreal Convention and, as a result, United is liable for Delfino’s death.
The lawsuit claims there were a number of options available to the flight attendants and pilots to assist Delfino, including providing oxygen, calling for help from a healthcare professional onboard the plane, arranging for medical assistance to be waiting on arrival or even diverting the plane.
United allegedly did none of these things.
“[United] violated industry standards of care and its own policies and procedures by failing to attend to a medical emergency involving plaintiffs’ decedent which occurred aboard Defendant’s aircraft; and failed to recognize and/or respond to visible or verbal indications that plaintiffs’ decedent was suffering a serious medical emergency aboard the aircraft,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Defendant breached its duties when it was careless, negligent and reckless in, among other acts or omissions, the operation and control of the circumstances of the subject flight and plaintiffs’ decedents’ transportation,” the suit continues.
The maximum possible payout under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention is 128,821 Special Drawing Rights – a made-up asset which was created by the International Monetary Fund and which is pegged to five currencies.
As of September 9, 2023, 128,821 Special Drawing Rights are worth US $170,056.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.