Lawsuit: American Airlines Let Dead Body Sit In Locked Bathroom For 2 Hours

A passenger who died in an airplane restroom wasn’t discovered until 2 hours after the plane had landed, a federal lawsuit says. From the AP:

The passenger, Taisuke Matsuo, 66, apparently had a heart attack on an American Airlines flight from Tokyo to Chicago during the first leg of a trip home to Indianapolis, according to the lawsuit filed Monday by his wife, Carolyn D. Watts.

After the plane landed at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on April 13, 2005, passengers and flight crew disembarked and the jet was taken to another gate for cleaning. Workers then discovered the bathroom was locked from the inside and found Matsuo’s body – about two hours after the jet landed

Aren’t they supposed to, you know, check the bathrooms before landing? —MEGHANN MARCO

Lawsuit: Body in plane hours after landing [AZCentral]
(Photo: dyobmit)


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  1. Trai_Dep says:

    The good news? They refunded his $2.50 headphones deposit.

  2. dragonflight says:

    I’m surprised none of the passengers noticed. It’s surprising to see the little things large groups of people can realize sometimes.

  3. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Well, last time somebody died on a plane and they stuck her in first class, everyone got all upset about that too. You can’t have it both ways people…either you leave your dead airline passengers in the bathroom, or you stick ’em in first class.

  4. Hoss says:

    I’d vote negligiance if “Find Dead Passengers” is on the landing checklist

  5. MercuryPDX says:

    Usually there’s an “occupied” light that gets turned on when the door is locked. Maybe no one noticed?

  6. BillyMumphry says:

    This is absurd. I assume they will settle but i hope they dont just so we can witness the shortest trial in the history of american litigation. Under no circumstances is an airline negligent for failing to search bathrooms for remaining passengers, dead or otherwise.

    He could have had a heart attack in the fucking aisle and they could have watched him die and there is no liability, much less a duty to search a lavatory. I hope this women joins her husband soon, as a society we will be better off.

  7. ironchef says:

    what’s the actual damages here? is there a basis for a suit?

  8. Dustbunny says:


    Maybe the wife is mad because she and her hubby didn’t get upgraded to first class after he died?

  9. raymar says:

    Why do people insist saying bathrooms for those tiny toilets on airplanes. Have you every heard of anyone trying to take a bath in one of those things? Why has the word toilet become such a dirty word that no one will use it in the USA. If you can’t bring yourself to say toilet, at least say lavatory.

  10. formergr says:

    If the facts as stated in the article are true, then the flight attendants on this particular AA flight seriously dropped the ball. Part of landing procedures on any flight are to lock the bathroom doors (they can do this from the outside by flipping up the little “occupied” sign that lights up on the door).

    If they’d done that on this flight, they would have seen someone was in there, knocked for a response, and getting none (since he was dead), would unlock the door from the outside to determine if there was a problem in there.

    I don’t know why the wife is suing though– he’s dead regardless and it’s not like she can make the claim that he died because of their neglect. Just that his body was unclaimed for a couple of hours.

  11. grrrarrrg says:

    would it be appropriate to assume that she wasn’t on the same flight? with her (now dead ex-) husband?

    i don’t know about Ms. Watts, but if my spouse never returned after going to the bathroom 20 minutes after leaving her seat, i’d be a bit worried… even more so if she didn’t show up before we were scheduled to land

  12. EtherealStrife says:

    2 hours is nothing. During a holiday weekend a dead body sat in an SUV in the Irvine PD parking lot from for four days. It took a civi to notice the blood next to the driver’s side door (the guy had put a bullet in his head).

    As far as planes, I’ve been on the pot immediately before landings and each time they knocked to let me know to hurry up. I’m surprised they didn’t say anything. Maybe they thought the door somehow jiggled into the locked position? Anyway, I don’t see what they’re *responsible* for. The guy died. . . .

  13. moorie679 says:

    This is one of the dumbest lawsuits I have heard of… his wife should be thankful that the guy at least got to where he was going……. you know what they say….better late then never.

  14. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    Am I the only one who noticed the “Sky Chefs” truck in the pic at the top of the page?

    [waits for the discussion to devolve into one about cannibalism]

  15. acambras says:

    Maybe Ralph Fiennes was on the flight and they figured HE was the one in the can?

  16. facted says:

    I do agree with the others that this is a ridiculous lawsuit, but I wonder how full the plane was. If I was sitting next to a guy, and he got up and didn’t come back for 2 hours, I’d be a little concerned myself…and I’m not the guy’s wife. You can only assume the wife wasn’t on the plane. Regardless, this is plain ol’ let’s get some money from someone while we can. Gotta love the US.

  17. faust1200 says:

    I think this is a valid lawsuit. If they are going to screen “Ms. Congeniality II :Armed and Fabulous” you have to expect casualties.

  18. Havok154 says:

    He was dead…it’s not like he could of suffered from being stuck in the small bathroom for longer then his flight. Hell, I bet the least of his worries was being stuck on the plane too long.

  19. mrcool1122 says:

    Regardless of the particular body-finding circumstances in this case, what a crappy thought to be going through your mind: “I’m dying in an airplane lavatory.”

  20. OnceWasCool says:

    When you got to go, you GOT to go!

  21. vanilla-fro says:

    Maybe he died in an unlocked bathroom and then the flight attendents locked it for landing?

    either way, i wonder if he had the fish?

  22. markwm says:

    “Hey, how about a courtesy flush in there. God, it smells like someone died or something.”

  23. Youthier says:

    It was probably a big plane with multiple attendants. My guess is that an attendant checked, saw it locked, and assumed another attendant did it.

    Not really worth a lawsuit or even a firing though.

  24. winnabago says:

    Doesn’t a lawsuit need to be based on some wrong, either actual or imagined? The poor guy died in flight, he wasn’t killed, and there was a slight delay because we didn’t inform anyone that he was dead. I can’t imagine what the basis is.

    The lawyer seems to be throwing it all out there to see what sticks.

  25. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @faust1200: Seriously…I thought they were supposed to keep “bombs” off the plane!

    maybe she is trying to make a connection between the airline food he ate and his death…? Or maybe shes just a greedy bitch.

  26. pestie says:

    @dwayne_dibbly: Those are hardly your only two choices! For example, if they were over water, the dearly departed could be given a very dignified burial at sea.

  27. jblake1 says:

    I’d like to know how much she would sue for if the corpse had been in there for 30 min instead of 2 hours. Or why has it taken her 2 years to bring action for emotional distress? The guy died of natural causes, it happens every second; and guess what, some people die alone in their own locked bathrooms at home. puhlease…

  28. aka Cat says:

    Maybe she figures that if they found him immediately, it wouldn’t have been too late to do CPR? I could sympathize with that, although I don’t think it merits a lawsuit.

    If someone sitting near me went to the lav and never returned, I’d just assume they were having digestive issues.

  29. MercuryPDX says:

    @facted: “If I was sitting next to a guy, and he got up and didn’t come back for 2 hours, I’d be a little concerned myself.”

    I wouldn’t. People change seats mid-flight all the time. After about 30 minutes I’d of lifted his armrest and stretched out.

  30. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Seriously, the guy died in the lavatory. Even if there had been a 10-minute window in which he could have been revived with CPR, last I knew you were allowed to go to the bathroom without supervision.

    Does this mean now that airline personnel will be required to knock on every lavatory door at precise 5 minute intervals and say “Hey, are you okay in there? You’re not dead or anything? If you’re dead, please knock twice.”

    If there’s negligence here, maybe it’s taking an airline flight knowing you have a heart condition? Plane or no plane, sometimes people die, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

  31. Elle Rayne says:

    The airline should have checked before landing, and again after. Something’s wrong when a dead body sits in the bathroom and nobody notices for two hours. After all, wouldn’t they check to make sure nobody was asleep or ill? I understand why the wife is suing. It may not do her deceased husband much good, but she likely viewed the neglect of the body as disrespect. Of all places for a loved one to lie dead…

  32. GMR says:

    After 9/11 it is only natural for a person to think that American Airlines would take every precaution necessary on its flights, but obviously American Airlines doesn’t think it is necessary. I would say some of their flight attendants obviously need more training if they somehow missed a dead body. I’ll bet they don’t have trouble finding the pilots in the cockpit. Today’s FAs need more than little two piece blue uniforms with a short skirt, they need training and skill to handle all emergency situations. Perhaps if someone were paying attention, this man could have received CPR and the proper medical attention, but then again, if they missed a dying man they probably wouldn’t have had the training or brains to know CPR or to even know how to call for help. Who knows he may have lived if only a crew member would have paid attention. I have had some difficulty with AA and I will never fly the line again. The entire stew pool disappeared to the front of the plane, drawing the curtain behind them on my flight and did not reemerge for sometime. If I ever get stuck flying AA again for any reason, I will be on the edge of my seat the entire way. After this incident, 9/11 and other articles I have read, I will always hold their ability and skill in question. Thank God there are other lines.