United Airlines has agreed to to pay $30m to the family of quadriplegic man who was left brain damaged after he was “violently” removed from a flight.
Nathaniel “NJ” Foster Jr, 26, who uses a wheelchair, ventilator, and tracheal tube, suffered the injury as he was deplaned from a United Express flight from San Francisco to Monroe, Louisiana, on 8 February 2019, while traveling to a funeral with his family.
His family alleged in court that a ramp supervisor had “aggressively” pushed Mr Foster, causing his body to jerk forward and then fall back, according to Reuters.
Usually four to six staff helped him to disembark, but the complaint stated that only one attendant was initially available.
The staff member called for help and a “supervisor” arrived with an aisle chair.
When the family requested additional assistance, the supervisor reportedly said: “Fine. Do it yourself, then … I’m out,” according to the court filing.
A baggage handler contracted to United then secured Mr Foster to his chair with a belt, and “aggressively” pushed him causing him to slump to one side.
His mother Pamela Foster sought medical help after hearing him whisper “I can’t breathe”, which would be his last words. He remains in a vegetative state, according to a statement released by the family in June.
According to court papers, the gate agent laughed and told a surgeon who offered help “we got this”.
Mr Foster, from Pleasant Hill, California, went into cardiac arrest and suffered “significant” brain damage, according to Reuters.
He was left unable to eat solid foods or speak, and his life expectancy has shrunk from 39 prior to the incident to 31.5, the complaint stated.
After a one day trial in San Francisco federal court, United agreed to pay $30m to his family. The settlement needs to be approved by a judge.
United Airlines declined to comment when contacted by The Independent.
In a statement to Reuters, the airline said: “Our top priority is to provide a safe journey for all our customers, especially those who require additional assistance or the use of a wheelchair.
“We are pleased to share that this matter has settled.”
The Fosters’ attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a press statement prior to the trial, his mother Pamela Foster said that the family had received “repeated assurances” from United that NJ would be properly cared for.
“What happened to our son, to our family, cannot be undone,” Mrs Foster said.
“We hope that through our loss, lessons present themselves so that no other family has to suffer.”
The family’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to Reuters, $12m of the settlement will go towards legal costs, and $3m would cover other costs associated with the trial.