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American Airlines Sued for Wrongful Death After In-Flight Medical Emergency

April 27, 2018
3 min read
American Airlines plane heads to the gate at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport
American Airlines Sued for Wrongful Death After In-Flight Medical Emergency
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The family of a South Carolina woman who died as the result of an in-flight medical emergency is suing American Airlines with a wrongful death lawsuit.

The 25-year-old woman, Brittany Oswell, had an embolism while on a flight from Honolulu, Hawaii (HNL) to Dallas (DFW) in 2016. According to the lawsuit, Oswell's family is alleging that the flight's crew never attempted an emergency landing and that the aircraft's medical equipment was faulty.

The lawsuit states that about three hours into the flight, Oswell became "dizzy and disoriented," and her husband paged flight attendants. The flight attendants found a doctor on board the aircraft to examine Oswell, who was believed to be suffering a panic attack.

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Hours later, Oswell was found on the floor of the aircraft lavatory, where she had vomited and defecated herself, according to the lawsuit. Her husband flagged down flight attendants and the group began to "render assistance." The lawsuit goes on to say that the doctor on board told the aircraft crew the flight should immediately be diverted to get Oswell proper medical attention. But, after a call with a physician who was not on board, the pilots decided to finish the 90 minutes remaining in the flight to Dallas, the lawsuit alleges.

Oswell's breathing and heart eventually stopped, and the doctor and crew tried to use a defibrillator three times, but "no shock was administered," the lawsuit says. The suit also states that the two blood pressure cuffs on board also failed. At that point, the flight crew again called the doctor not on board, and the pilots decided to finish the 45 minutes left in the flight to Dallas.

Photo from an Oswell family handout via ABC News.
Photo courtesy an Oswell family handout via ABC News.

The group providing medical assistance to Oswell continued to perform CPR for the rest of the flight, the lawsuit says, and when the flight landed in Dallas, Oswell was taken to Baylor Medical Center and was diagnosed with anoxic brain damage and an acute embolism. She never regained conciousness and was taken off life support three days after the medical emergency on the plane.

“We absolutely felt like this was not taken very seriously,” Oswell's mother, Tina Starks, told ABC News. “She’s no longer here to do anything with us and it’s all because someone made a business decision to keep flying a plane when she needed emergency medical help that they could not provide because of inadequacies on board the flight."

In a statement to ABC, American Airlines said "We take the safety of our passengers very seriously and we are looking into the details of the complaint."

Featured image by An American Airlines plane heads to the gate at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Photo by John Gress / Getty Images