An 89-year-old Texas woman is suing United Airlines, claiming she fell down an escalator and broke four ribs, fractured her pelvis and injured her shoulder, arm, back and legs in February because the airline failed to provide her with a wheelchair.
In the lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Thelma Kiger claims she was handed a wheelchair voucher in Los Angeles before flying to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. The passenger says that the airline promised an attendant with a wheelchair would meet her at the gate and take her to the baggage claim area upon arrival.
But Kiger says no one was waiting for her when she got off the plane, and a United representative told her to sit at the gate and wait. After 10 minutes, she says, a man operating an electric cart approached, helped her board the cart and took her to the area near the escalator that takes passengers down to baggage claim.
Once there, she claims, the operator told to get off the cart and provided no information regarding further assistance.
“With no other assistance by United, or any explanation as to whether she would be provided any further assistance to the baggage claim area on the lower level, Plaintiff attempted to access the escalator to go down to the baggage claim area,” the lawsuit reads.
“As Plaintiff grabbed the handrail to step onto the escalator, suddenly and unexpectedly, she fell to the bottom of the escalator and was knocked unconscious.”
Kiger was hospitalized for a week before she was sent to a medical center, where she underwent weeks of physical therapy. She says she “now must use a cane to ambulate and can no longer participate in many activities she was able to enjoy prior to the incident.”
The lawsuit accuses United of negligence, negligent training and violations of the Air Carrier Access Act, which prohibits discrimination by air carriers on the basis of physical disability and requires air carriers to “provide assistance requested by or on behalf of qualified individuals with a disability.”
Kiger is seeking compensation for her medical expenses and the “physical pain and suffering and mental anguish” she has experienced since her fall.
In an emailed statement to Consumerist, a spokeswoman for United wrote:
“We are dedicated to providing convenient and comfortable service to all of our customers. While we haven’t been served with a lawsuit, we are looking into this matter with our wheelchair service partner.”