Double amputee seeks damages after scooter batteries are confiscated before flight: 'Most humiliating thing'

A United Airlines passenger is pursuing a case in federal court after he says he was forced to crawl on the floor of his hotel room during his vacation because officials with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) at Canada’s Calgary International Airport confiscated the batteries to his portable scooter. He is seeking up to $20,000 in damages, the maximum allowed under the Canadian Human Rights Act, for each count of pain and suffering

Double amputee Stearn Hodge, 68, was traveling to Tulsa, Okla., from Calgary, Alberta, with his wife for their 43rd wedding anniversary in February 2017, when the incident happened.

Hodge, who lost his left arm and right leg in a work accident in 1984, CBC reported, uses his portable scooter to get around.


However, when Hodge, a frequent traveler, got to the airport, an agent with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) told the man he would not be able to bring his $2,000 lithium-ion batteries his scooter requires on the plane because of fire concerns.

Lithium-ion batteries have been banned from being stored in checked bags on planes because of their fire-risk, but Hodge had documents by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) allowing him to travel with them because of his disability, CBC reported.

When Hodge tried to show his documentation to CATSA, he was reportedly ignored. A spokesperson for CATSA denied comment to Fox News as the matter is currently before the Federal Court of Canada.

A United Airlines gate agent also allegedly came to security and sided with the CATSA official, despite Hodge’s explanation that the airline had approved his batteries earlier.

"I still remember the CATSA agent saying, 'Well, you could get a wheelchair.' How's a one-armed guy going to run a wheelchair?" asked Hodge, CBC reported. "How am I going to go down a ramp and brake with one hand? But that shouldn't even have to come up."


Hodge also noted his wife had undergone cancer treatment before their trip and was not able to push him in a wheelchair.

Once the couple arrived at their destination, Hodge said it was miserable.

A spokesperson for CATSA denied comment to Fox News as the matter is currently before the Federal Court of Canada.

A spokesperson for CATSA denied comment to Fox News as the matter is currently before the Federal Court of Canada. (iStock)

"Having to crawl across the floor in front of my wife is the most humiliating thing that I can think of," said Hodge to CBC. "It unmasks how real my disability is … I haven't been the same since."

Once Hodge and his wife returned to Canada, Hodge received an email from United Airlines in response to his complaint. According to the email, a resolution official with the airline, Tatricia Orija, wrote, “it appears we were in violation of federal disability requirements,” CBC reported. The email also offered Hodge and his wife an $800 travel certificate.

A spokesperson with United Airlines said in a statement to Fox News that it is investigating.


“We are looking into the allegations, and because of the pending litigation, we are unable to provide further comment. That said, the experience described falls far short of our own high standard of caring for our customers. We are proud of the many steps we have taken over the past few years to exhibit more care for our customers and we are proud to operate an airline that doesn’t just include people with disabilities but welcomes them as customers.”

Hodge has hired a lawyer and is looking to have the Canadian Human Rights Commission hear the case in Federal Court.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article stated airport officials confiscated the scooter batteries. It has been updated to specify CATSA officials at the Calgary International Airport confiscated the lithium-ion batteries.