Southwest Airlines and a third-party contractor that offers special assistance services are being sued by the family of a lady who was paralyzed after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury while boarding a trip at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
Following the “horrific” event on February 25, Gabrielle Assouline’s family filed a complaint in a Florida district court accusing Southwest and its contractor G2 Secure Staff of negligence.
Gabby Assouline, 25, of Miami had already been diagnosed with the highly rare medical illness known as Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), which causes muscle tissue to convert to the bone. She had requested wheelchair assistance to help her board the Southwest flight.
The condition restricted Gaby’s mobility but her mother, Sandra Assouline, says she had an active and fulfilled life up until the accident. “Nothing stopped her from living her life before,” Sandra says.
“Not even FOP. She created art with her hands, spending hours tending to her growing garden and crocheting well-loved pieces of clothing.”
But on February 25, court documents alleged that Gaby was thrown from her electric mobility scooter on a Southwest Airlines jetway after hitting a junction in the expendable jetty.
Gaby is a quadriplegic who needs a ventilator to breathe after falling on her head and breaking her C2 vertebrae.
The lawsuit alleges that Southwest and its contractor were negligent in failing to offer sufficient assistance, training, and warnings about the risks associated with using the jetway.
Southwest Airlines has not commented on the lawsuit but a spokesperson says the carrier has “offered a response directly to those involved”. The airline says it is still investigating the incident.
In a statement, the spokesperson added: “Southwest Airlines’ primary priority is the Safety of our People and Customers both on the ground and in the air. We have reviewed the Customer’s initial account of her travel experience and have offered a response directly to those involved.”
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.”
The family’s attorney Robert Solomon, says Gaby remains “a prisoner in her own body”.