Bohrer and Lukeman Files Federal Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Etihad Airways for Aviation Accident that Took Life of Wheelchair Passenger

March 22, 2019
Abram I. Bohrer

Aviation accident lawyers Bohrer and Lukeman have filed a five million dollar federal wrongful death lawsuit against Middle East luxury air carrier, Etihad Airways, on behalf of the estate of a wheelchair passenger who died as a consequence of the airline’s negligence. Prior to traveling, our client’s family contacted Etihad, (which prides itself on flying aircraft outfitted with “three room suites in the sky”) and requested wheelchair service and boarding assistance on behalf of their elderly father/grandfather for his flights to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia. The complaint alleges that despite notations in the economy class passenger’s file calling for wheelchair assistance and having a motorized ambulifter present and connected to the aircraft, Etihad’s ground agents made the disabled 79-year-old climb the portable airstairs into the Airbus A320 alone and unassisted, causing to him fall and strike his head.

Despite obvious signs of injury and being visibly in need of immediate medical attention, the Etihad crew made no attempt to contact the airport’s emergency medical provider nor even perform a basic “fitness to fly” medical assessment. Instead, they sat the severely injured passenger in his airline seat where he remained untreated for the next 17 hours as the plane flew to Abu DHabi and then made the intercontinental flight to Washington Dulles International Airport. The complaint further alleges that during the long haul flight, no doctor was paged, nor was Medlink, a ground based emergency medical provider under contract to airlines, called for a consultation.

It was only after arrival at Dulles Airport that the decedent was taken to a hospital. A medical evaluation revealed that the elderly victim had suffered a traumatic brain injury and cerebral hemorrhage due to impact, as well as a spinal fracture, the stress of which resulted in injury to the victim’s heart. He was admitted to the hospital where he spent nearly a month after undergoing open heart surgery, physical therapy and nursing care. Shortly after his discharge, he passed away from his injuries.

The lawsuit seeks five million dollars in damages on behalf of the victim’s estate, including compensation for medical, funeral, and burial expenses, additional pecuniary and financial losses, mental anguish and pain and suffering endured by the decedent and his family, loss of services, protection, care, and assistance provided by the deceased. The action also seeks recovery for the loss of enjoyment of life during the period of time leading to his death.

Bohrer & Lukeman’s wrongful death lawsuit is filed under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention, which sets forth the standard for air carrier liability for passengers injured or killed as a result of “accidents” that occur either on board the aircraft during international flights, or which occur during boarding and disembarking. In other words, commercial airlines may be responsible if a passenger is injured not only during the flight, but for injuries that occur in the airport terminal, on the tarmac, while climbing portable airstairs or riding on tarmac transfer buses so long as their activity is considered to be in the course of the aircraft’s boarding or disembarking process.

When asked about the Etihad Airways wrongful death case, firm founder Abe Bohrer had this to say: “This is a terrible tragedy, but sadly I am not surprised, as our firm has encountered and uncovered similar prior acts of indifference to handicapped and wheelchair passengers by Etihad Airways, the flag carrier of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

“Etihad has very different standards of treatment for those who pay tens of thousands of dollars to fly in the lap of luxury in their three room suites in the sky and those who fly economy. On its website, the airline touts first class suites complete with living rooms where couples can enjoy an intimate meal for two, watch movies on a private 32-inch screen, sleep in a double bed with fine linen, or even shower in their en suite bathroom.

“And while those comforts are truly fit for a king, the airline’s handicapped and mobility challenged passengers who fly downstairs aboard the Airbus A320 receive substantially different treatment.”

In another federal lawsuit filed by Bohrer & Lukeman pending in Manhattan, we allege eerily similar facts against Etihad. There, Etihad’s wheelchair attendant required our client, an elderly frail woman traveling alone and designated as a wheelchair passenger, in violation of both TSA and company rules, to rise from the wheelchair at a security checkpoint and then proceeded to leave her unattended. She fell while trying to return to her wheelchair suffering severe pelvic fractures. Etihad’s wheelchair attendant, however, rather than calling for emergency medical attention, shockingly and inexcusably wheeled his passenger to the aircraft and placed her in her airline seat without ever informing the cabin crew of the fall which took place only minutes earlier in the terminal! Our client was forced to continue on a 14 hour flight to New York where only partially into the flight did the cabin crew learn of the accident.

The aircraft however continued to New York where upon admission to a local hospital, our client was discovered to have suffered a cardiac event caused by the pain, delay in treatment, and stress of the lengthy flight. Therefore, in addition to orthopedic surgery to repair the fracture, she ultimately also needed to undergo heart surgery. Fortunately she survived the harrowing ordeal but was hospitalized and spent over one month at rehab and nursing facilities.

Airplane accident lawyers Bohrer & Lukeman will continue to investigate and litigate the Etihad Airways Flight 289 wrongful death airstairs fall accident on behalf of our client’s estate as well as all cases of injury and/or wrongful death related to commercial aviation and general aviation crashes, in-flight accidents, and commercial airline negligence. The aviation accident attorneys at Bohrer & Lukeman have successfully represented passengers injured during international and domestic flights for over 25 years and have won settlements for its clients against nearly all of the world’s major airlines.