Passenger Sues Southwest for $49,000 After Getting Hit With Bag

Jan 29, 2015

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Upon landing, plane passengers have come to expect a flight attendant warning them to open overhead bins carefully in case luggage has shifted during the journey. But what about before the flight?

A man named Jeffery Reinhardt claims that during the boarding process on his recent Southwest Airlines flight from Portland (PDX) to Las Vegas (LAS),  he was clubbed by an oversize, overweight bag that fell on him as a flight attendant and another passenger attempted to unsuccessfully stuff it into an overheard bin. Reinhardt is now suing Southwest for $49,000 for his injuries, which include a compressed disc and tears to his back and neck muscles.

Falling suitcase injuries can cause many problem, including mild traumatic brain damage. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Falling-suitcase injuries can cause many problems, including mild traumatic brain damage. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

According to the lawsuit, these injuries have also resulted in other health issues for Reinhardt, such as headaches, nausea, dizziness and decreased range of motion. The breakdown of damages he’s claiming is $10,000 in medical expenses, $5,000 for lost income, and $34,000 for pain and suffering—totaling the $49,000.

The suit claims Reinhardt is requesting damages from the airline and not the fellow passenger because it was the airline that should be enforcing their carry-on bag rules and aware when a carry-on is simply too big for an overhead bin. A controversial Twitter campaign called @CarryOnShame (created by San Francisco Chronicle Travel Editor, Spud Hilton) has been making a similar assertion since June 2014, inviting people to share their photographs of fellow travelers/passengers who appear to be toting and storing excess baggage.

A 1998 study from FlightSafety.org explains that there are, on average, 4,500 incidents of baggage falling on passengers per year, and that “minimal traumatic brain injury” is one of the consequences. Apparently, though, it’s not just passengers who are getting injured from tumbling luggage: a survey from the Association of Flight Attendants to its members suggested that 80% of flight attendants have reported injuries from like cuts, bruises, sprains and strains after being hit by items tumbling from overhead bins.

Do you think flight attendants need to crack down on bag size? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Do you think flight attendants need to crack down on bag size? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

With so much baggage falling from on high, it’s good to know that law firm Boher & Lukeman specializes in aviation incidents, including “accident and injury caused by overhead bin malfunction.” It’s unclear whether Reinhardt is represented by this law firm, but it’s good to know that there’s someone out there to help in case we, too, are clobbered by overhead bags.

Have any of you been clubbed by an overhead bag? Do you agree with Reinhardt and his decision to sue Southwest Airlines? Please share your (respectful) comments in the section below. 

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