United Airlines is set to pay a $30 million settlement to the family of a quadriplegic man who was injured while deplaning from a flight to Monroe, Louisiana, a few years ago.
The incident involved now-26-year-old Nathaniel Foster Jr., a man who was using a wheelchair, ventilator, and tracheal tube in February 2019, Reuters reported.
The family accused a supervisor assisting Foster of “aggressively” pushing him while getting off the plane, according to the report. It resulted in his body jerking forward, then back, and eventually him whispering, “I can’t breathe.”
It prompted his mother to get help, but she said an airline gate agent “giggled” and said, “we got this” when a health professional offered a helping hand, per the outlet. The family alleged that Foster had a cardiac arrest, leading him to suffer from major brain damage.
According to CBS News, citing the lawsuit, the situation caused Foster to not be able to eat solid foods or speak and cut years from his life expectancy from 39 to 31.5.
When traveling, four to six staff members usually assist Foster in getting off a plane. But that day, only one person was originally there when they got to their destination, the outlet reported. When booking the trip, Foster’s mother said she disclosed Foster’s condition to the airline.
“Based on the repeated assurances provided by United Airlines of its ability to provide safe transportation for her son, Mrs. Foster purchased her family’s tickets,” a June press release posted by the family’s attorneys said. “Arriving in Louisiana, after a period of delay, agents were unprepared to handle the deplanement of NJ Foster.”
The statement added, “NJ Foster remains in a persistent vegetative state today.”
According to reports, the settlement was reached on Tuesday, after one day of the trial. In a statement to Reuters, the airline said: “We are pleased to share that this matter has settled.”
The settlement will see $12 million go to legal fees, and $3 million reportedly will cover other expenses.