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Disability Rights Activist Tammy Spears Passes Away

Tammy Spears

Our legal team at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman mourns the loss of a beloved client and friend, Tammy Spears, who passed away January 4, 2021. She is survived by her husband, Greg, and her son, Robert.

During an American Airlines flight, Mrs. Spears was subjected to traumatic humiliation, the likes of which our attorneys have never witnessed before. Being the brave individual she was, Mrs. Spears decided to pursue a legal case against the airline to raise awareness of an important issue overlooked by too many: disability rights. Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman had the great honor of representing her in her lawsuit against American Airlines and watching her become a staunch advocate for the rights of disabled airline passengers.

On August 10, 2019, Mrs. Spears embarked on a flight from Salt Lake City, Utah to Charlotte, North Carolina. Given the fact that she was a disabled amputee, she called American Airlines two days prior to departure to verify that the plane would be equipped with a wheelchair for her use, a fact that the airline first denied but later admitted. This is not only an airline policy, but an accommodation that should be on every flight for passengers with disabilities.

Despite this, when Mrs. Spears requested to use the lavatory an hour into the flight, the flight attendant informed her that there was, in fact, no wheelchair aboard the plane. She was told to “hold it.” She tried to do so but, unfortunately, could not.

The events that unfolded from here were no doubt traumatic—cabin crew members lifted, pushed, dragged, and injured Mrs. Spears as they attempted to get her to the lavatory. They directed her to “scoot” herself on the floor, intermittently pushing and pulling her along the way. Flight attendants then disrobed her in front of the other passengers. Ultimately, she had to use the lavatory with the door left open.

It cannot be stressed enough how terrible it is to be treated in this manner. The injuries Mrs. Spears suffered were physical and emotional: strains, rug burns, emotional distress, humiliation, and more.

Through her lawsuit, Mrs. Spears fought to ensure that American Airlines, and other airlines, would take action to prevent other disabled passengers from being subjected to similar indignities. Her advocacy landed her appearances on television and in print media, which greatly helped raise awareness of the mistreatment of disabled passengers.

Reliving one’s trauma is a difficult feat. The fact that Mrs. Spears did so to implement positive change for disabled people is truly worthy of admiration and respect. She will be missed by everyone at our firm and all those who were close to her.

To learn more about Tammy Spears, her life, and her legacy, we kindly invite you to read our press release.



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