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Disabled Passenger’s Lawsuit Against American Airlines Moves Forward

Tammy Spears

July 28, 2021 – Salt Lake City, Utah - - A federal judge in Utah has granted a motion to allow an Idaho man the chance to continue litigating a case that his now-deceased wife filed last year against American Airlines.

Attorneys for Mrs. Tammy Sue Spears filed a lawsuit against American Airlines in June of 2020 for events that occurred during a 2019 flight from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Charlotte, North Carolina. The lawsuit alleged that American Airlines cabin crew members forced Mrs. Spears, a disabled amputee, to crawl from her seat to the lavatory because the airline did not have an aisle wheelchair on the flight. Mrs. Spears sustained injuries and was utterly humiliated.

While the lawsuit was pending, Mrs. Spears gave several media interviews discussing her case and disabled air passenger rights. Unfortunately, she passed away on January 4, 2021 for reasons unrelated to events alleged in her complaint.

As the representative of Mrs. Spears’ estate, Mr. Robert G. “Greg” Spears asked the court to amend the complaint and substitute him for his deceased wife so that he may continue to litigate her claims against American Airlines. American Airlines opposed Mr. Spears’ motion to amend the complaint and moved to dismiss the case, asserting that when Mrs. Spears died, all of the claims were extinguished.

U.S. District Court Judge Tena Williams for the District of Utah was unmoved by American Airlines’ opposition. She ruled in favor of Mr. Spears’ motion to allow the case to continue with him as the plaintiff.

Attorneys representing the Spears family says American Airlines has generally treated the Spears family “reprehensibly” since the complaint was filed last year. Mr. Spears, who has stage 4 cancer, simply wants his day in court, and American Airlines has worked tirelessly to deny him that chance, his attorneys say.

“American Airlines has taken an adversarial position with regard to Mrs. Spears’ disability from day one,” says her attorney. “Their efforts to stop Mr. Spears from pursuing these allegations is evidence of a total lack of regard for the Spears family and, frankly, anyone with a disability. We are encouraged by the judge’s ruling and look forward to holding American Airlines accountable for their outrageous conduct.”

Disabled Passenger’s Lawsuit Against American Airlines Made Shocking Allegations

The lawsuit against American Airlines asserts two claims for negligence, a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, and a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Mr. Spears also filed a claim for loss of consortium.

According to the complaint, Mr. and Mrs. Spears consulted with American Airlines about Mrs. Spears’ disability well before her scheduled travel and specifically requested an onboard aisle wheelchair for the flight. When Mrs. Spears arrived at the Salt Lake City International Airport on the day of her flight, TSA employees used a wheelchair to transport her to her gate, and Airlines employees used an aisle chair to help Mrs. Spears board the plane.

After she took her seat, American Airlines removed the aisle chair from the plane despite “notice and knowledge” that Mrs. Spears “would foreseeably need the use of an aisle chair during flight,” the complaint states.

An hour into the flight, Mrs. Spears notified a flight attendant that she needed to use the lavatory and asked for the aisle chair. According to the allegations, after learning that the flight did not have an aisle wheelchair, the flight attendant told Mrs. Spears to either “hold it” or make her way to the lavatory without using the aisle chair. Unable to wait, Mrs. Spears asked for help getting to the lavatory. American Airlines employees tried to help but instead “lifted, dropped, pushed, dragged and injured” Mrs. Spears, the complaint alleges.

Mrs. Spears was finally able to use the lavatory after struggle and humiliation. According to the lawsuit, she had to use the restroom in plain view of flight attendants and several first-class passengers, as cabin crew members insisted she leave the door open.

When American Airlines employees were about to carry out another ill-conceived way to move her back to her seat, a nearby passenger offered his seat to her, per the complaint. After the series of embarrassing and painful in-flight events, the lawsuit states that her blood pressure was elevated, and she needed supplemental oxygen until the flight landed in North Carolina.

“I’ve seen a lot of things in my 50+ years practicing aviation law,” says veteran trial attorney Ronald L. M. Goldman. “But the indignity, humiliation, and pain that Mrs. Spears suffered at the hands of American Airlines is unlike anything I have ever seen. If for no other reason than to honor the memory of Tammy Spears, justice demands that this case go forward.”

Attorneys Will Depose American Airlines Flight Crew

With the case now scheduled to move forward in Utah, attorneys for Mr. Spears will now move to depose American Airlines personnel, including the flight crew responsible for lifting, dropping, dragging, and pushing Mrs. Spears through from her seat to the lavatory. While no trial date is set, in light of Greg Spears’ declining health, his lawyers will be attempting to expedite his case.

About Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman

Aviation attorney Ronald L. M. Goldman represents Mr. Spears in his case against American Airlines. Mr. Goldman is a pilot and seasoned trial lawyer who has been practicing law for nearly 60 years. He is board-certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) as a Civil Pretrial Practice Advocate and Civil Trial Advocate, Senior Specialist.

The national law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman has successfully litigated against most major airlines in the United States, including over 50 personal injury and wrongful death cases against American Airlines.

Across all practice areas, the firm has won over $4 billion in verdicts and settlements. With a track record of success going back decades, Baum Hedlund has earned a reputation for holding Fortune 500 companies accountable, influencing public policy, and breaking new legal ground.


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