Man Sues United for Refusing to Divert Plane for Medical Emergency

May 25, 2018

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A man is suing United Airlines after the crew on his flight to Rome (FCO) refused to land the plane for him to obtain treatment for his acute pancreatitis.

Lewis Christman and his wife Roseanne were flying with United in May 2016 from Chicago (ORD) to Rome (FCO). In Christman’s complaint against the airline, he alleges that he suffered such severe pain and nausea that he was unable to sit up straight. Instead, Christman says that he was forced to curl up on the galley floor in a fetal position.

As reported by Bloomberg, Christman was hospitalized in Rome and then in the US for months before requiring surgery. In his complaint filed on May 17 in Cook County, Illinois, Christman alleges that the crew should have landed the plane.

“When there is an emergency situation with someone who was as sick as Mr. Christman was, United Airlines has an obligation to land the plane, and get him to the emergency room as quickly as possible,” said David Axelrod, a lawyer for Christman.

Christman claims that the flight crew was ill-prepared for his in-flight medical emergency. At first, he claims, the crew did not offer him assistance and couldn’t find pain medication. Then, Christman claims, the crew declined a recommendation from a doctor on board to divert the flight. Finally, Christman claims that the crew failed to alert a ground team, resulting in an even further delay in receiving treatment upon landing.

Ultimately, Christman says that he was given a business-class seat. The couple are alleging negligence and loss of consortium, and are seeking at least $100,000 in damages.

“We are aware of the suit and are looking into the matter,” said Erin Benson Scharra, a spokeswoman for United.

Christman says that by the time the flight landed, he was told that his pancreatitis had become necrotic, or seriously infected. After spending several days in a hospital in Rome, Christman was advised by doctors that he was too ill to fly home commercially. So, he and his wife flew back to Chicago on a chartered Air Ambulance in June 2016. There, he stayed at a hospital for three months and underwent surgery.

This lawsuit is the latest in a string of public relations issues for United, beginning in 2017 with the Dr. Dao dragging incident. Following several other high-profile incidents, such as the death of a dog in an overhead bin, United hired former Obama administration press secretary Josh Earnest as its senior vice president and chief communications officer.

Christman’s lawsuit comes about one month after the family of a South Carolina woman sued American Airlines for a woman’s wrongful death.

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