Spirit Airlines sued following death of 90-year-old former baggage handler

The widow of Nazem Amine, a former baggage handler for Spirit Airlines, has filed a federal lawsuit against the company over an injury her late husband suffered on the job.

Amine, who recently died at age 90, had been working for Spirit until he suffered a hernia after lifting 500 pieces of luggage during a single shift in 2015. Amine, who was 88 at the time, then needed surgery to fix the hernia, and his family believes this lead to complications brought on a fatal heart attack on July 16, the Detroit Free Press reports.

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His 53-year-old widow, Siham Amine of Dearborn, Mich., is currently suing for medical expenses incurred during Amine’s treatment for hernia, colitis and congestive heart failure.

"Any guy who is 88 years old and can lift 500 bags seems to be in pretty good health," said Siham’s lawyer, Bryan Schefman, who first filed the suit in January, when Amine was still alive but confined to a wheelchair. "He died from secondary complications relating to the complete meltdown of his physical status.”

According to the suit, Siham is seeking $721,000, with half of that earmarked for Medicare, the Press reports.

Amine’s family alleges that he was in good physical condition until the incident — the Lebanese immigrant was a former Olympic wrestler who competed for Lebanon in both 1956 and 1960, and had worked at Spirit as a handler and driver for 16 years. Previously, he had worked as a butcher.

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But Spirit — which is not disputing that Amine’s hernia was work-related — is trying to get the case dismissed, arguing that the Michigan Workers Compensation Board (MWCB) has not yet decided whether Amine’s hernia caused his heart problems.

The airline also claims that the MWCB has already paid Amine’s hernia-related medical bills, so there’s nothing left to argue.

A representative for the airline was not immediately available to comment.

In the meantime, Amine’s family is remembering their late patriarch as a loyal, hard-working employee and father.

"He would say, 'I don't want anyone taking care of me. I want to take care of myself,'" Amine’s son Mike Mike Amine told the Press. "We would beg him to come and work with us. ... I tried to talk him out of [working], but he couldn't let go."

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The National Wrestling Hall of Fame, too, remembered Amine in a Facebook post on July 29.

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Nazem Amine, who competed in wrestling for Lebanon in the Olympics in 1960,” the site wrote, later adding, “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”