American Airlines Passenger Claims Unsecured Beverage Cart Caused Brain Injury

Image courtesy of Travelin’ Librarian

An American Airlines passenger says that he suffered “chronic traumatic brain injury” after allegedly being struck in the head by a runaway beverage cart. Making matters worse, claims the traveler, the cabin crew was not prepared to deal with the situation.

According to a lawsuit [PDF] filed in federal court in New York this week, the man and his wife were on a flight from Bradley International Airport in Connecticut to Charlotte Douglass Airport in North Carolina.

He was sitting on the aisle, with his wife in the row ahead of him. During takeoff, the lawsuit claims, “an unsecured, fully stocked beverage cart, weighing approximately 300 lbs., situated at the front of the plane, flew down the aisle.”

The man was hit “in the head with such force that his hat was pierced and ripped off his head onto the floor,” the complaint claims, noting that it’s believed the cart injured other passengers and a flight attendant.

The impact from the beverage cart caused a large gash in his forehead and severe bleeding, the lawsuit states, “causing him to lose consciousness and suffer other serious and permanent injuries.”

His wife and other passengers notified the flight attendant that he was injured, bleeding, and in need of medical assistance, but the lawsuit claims that despite Federal Aviation Administration regulations requiring all commercial flights weighing 7,500 lbs. or more to carry a properly equipped medical or first aid kit, the attendant couldn’t find any bandages, gloves, or first-aid kits on the aircraft.

That’s when she asked over the intercom if any medical personnel were present, and a nurse came forward and attempted to slow the bleeding while another passenger provided a first aid kit.

“Despite [the plaintiff’s] severe injury occurring immediately upon takeoff and the stewardess initially announcing that the flight would be diverted due to a medical emergency, American Airlines continued ascending and proceeded to Charlotte, its original destination, over two hours away,” the lawsuit claims.

According to the complaint, during the flight, various passengers took turns holding his head stable, applying ice to slow the bleeding, and holding a portable oxygen mask on his face.

The lawsuit also claims that the flight attendant had no concern for the man’s privacy, “repeatedly and loudly” asking him and his wife about his medical history and then repeating that information in front of others on the flight.

His wife spent the entire flight “in extreme agony and in a state of anxiety, fearing the unknown condition of her husband, as he was profusely bleeding and falling in and out of consciousness,” the lawsuit reads. “The airline crew’s apparent lack of capability to handle the emergency added to her panic and anxiety.”

When the flight landed, his head was bandaged by airport EMTs, and he taken to the hospital, where he received seven Novocain shots in his head, a tetanus shot and stitches, and CT scans of his head.

The complaint claims that the man has had extensive medical treatment due to his injuries, and has been diagnosed with” chronic traumatic brain injury and post-concussive syndrome,” as well as suffering from from visual disturbances, headaches, mood swings, and anxiety.

He says he has been unable to work and “physically unable to bend down or engage in hobbies he once enjoyed.” Not only that, but the couple claims their marriage has become strained as a result of his injuries.

American owed a duty of care to the passengers aboard the flight, the lawsuit states, including the man and his wife, “to operate and control the aircraft and its contents with the highest degree of care, and to exercise the highest degree of care to prevent injury of any kind.”

The complaint claims that American breached its duties by “negligently and carelessly failing to lock and secure the beverage cart,” and further breached its duties by “failing to provide proper medical attention” when he was injured.

The airline exacerbated those injuries by “refusing and failing to turn the plane around while still ascending from takeoff, and otherwise seeking proper and immediate medical assistance and attention” for the passenger, the lawsuit says.

He’s seeking compensatory damages of no less than $10 million.

“We always strive to maintain a positive and safe travel experience for all of our customers and we have procedures in place to address medical issues that arise on our aircraft,” an American Airlines spokesperson said in a statement to Consumerist. “Whenever allegations arise where that may not have occurred, we take it seriously. We are reviewing the lawsuit and the details of this particular flight.”

This isn’t the first time an airline has been in the legal crosshairs over a beverage cart: A United Airlines passenger sued in 2015, claiming that an unsecured cart fell on a man and injured his leg.

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