A South Florida family is suing a major airline, saying that their daughter became paralyzed from the neck down after she fell from her wheelchair while boarding a flight.
Back in February, 25-year-old Gaby Assouline was boarding a Southwest flight to Denver at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. As she was on the jet bridge about to board, she fell from her wheelchair — and that fall led to a broken neck, her family said.
"They had one job: get her on the airplane, safely, the Denver," said the family's attorney, Robert C. Solomon.
While Assouline used a wheelchair and walker to get around, it was only for long distances due to a genetic disorder that affects her muscles — so she did have some mobility before the fall.
She’s now hospitalized and on a ventilator.
According to the lawsuit, Assouline was using her electric wheelchair on a jet bridge to board the plane when the chair flipped forward when it hit a junction, where the tubes that are part of the jet bridge connect.
The family says both Southwest Airlines and its contractor, G2 Secured Staff, were careless and that someone should’ve been behind her as she crossed the jetbridge.
They’ve filed a lawsuit claiming damages of over $30,000, but the family attorney says damages are likely much higher — $30-50 million over Assouline's lifespan.
In a statement, the airline said, "Southwest will continue to work with the customer and other involved parties to investigate and address the facts and circumstances relating to her travel experience. Southwest has spent more than 51 years caring for our people and customers and remains committed to continuing to do so."
In a court filing, Southwest also denied the allegations in the lawsuit, stating that they complied with federal law in connection with boarding related activities and met with legal and industry standards in dealings with Assouline.