By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – United Airlines has agreed to a $30 million settlement after a deplaning accident left a paralyzed man in a coma, court documents show.
The settlement with the family of Nathaniel Foster Jr., known as NJ, was disclosed on Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco and reached one day after the trial.
It arose from the treatment of Foster, who was using a wheelchair, a ventilator, and an endotracheal tube, as he and his family disembarked from a United Express flight on February 8, 2019, to Monroe, Louisiana, where they had traveled to attend a funeral. .
The family said the ramp supervisor pushed Foster “violently” and “forcefully”, causing his body to jerk forward and then fall backward, with his feet dragging on the ground.
According to a complaint, Foster’s mother called for help after hearing him whisper, “I can’t breathe,” but the gate attendant “laughed” and told the surgeon who offered to help, “We got this,” prompting him to sit up. Then Foster had a heart attack.
Court papers show Foster, now 26, has “significant” brain damage, cannot speak or eat solid foods, and is expected to live to the age of 31-and-a-half, down from 39 before the accident.
The settlement requires court approval and is “fair and reasonable,” according to the plaintiffs. They have been taking care of Foster at their home in Pleasant Hill, California.
“Our top priority is to provide a safe journey for all of our customers, especially those who require additional assistance or use a wheelchair,” United said in a statement on Wednesday. “We are pleased to share that this matter has been settled.”
Attorneys for the Foster family did not immediately respond to requests for comment. About $12 million of the settlement will cover legal fees, and $3 million for other costs.
The case is Foster et al v United Airlines Inc et al, US District Court, Northern District of California, No. 19-02530.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski)