A King County jury ruled against Alaska Airlines after a three year legal battle. The jury awarded $3.19 million after 75-year-old Bernice Kekona died following an escalator accident in the Portland airport. The jury found the airline 90% responsible for the incident. The victim’s daughter says when the jury returned the wrongful death verdict she broke down in tears – saying now her mom can rest in peace. “We got justice for my mom,” her daughter said. The lawsuit was filed in 2017. Now it’s the first night in more than three years the family does not have the weight of a legal battle on their shoulders.
The horrifying incident was captured on surveillance video where you see Kekona falling down an escalator in her electric wheelchair – leading to serious injuries.
Kekona was flying from Maui to Spokane and changing planes in Portland. Her family said it’s a trip she regularly made, and as usual, the family requested gate-to-gate escort services. But during a layover in Portland, attorneys for Kekona’s family said they discovered an Alaska Airlines gate agent failed to tell contractor attendants that Kekona needed to be escorted to her next gate. Bernice tried to go herself but got confused.
Video shows her wandering through the airport in her wheelchair until she is finally seen at the top of an escalator. She later said she thought it was an elevator.
Complications from her injuries led to septic infection which led to a surgery and her right foot was amputated, sadly the infection spread. Three months later, Kekona died.
“I just miss talking with her, I miss her cooking, I miss her going to church with me. We just did things together,” Bloyed said. Alaska Airlines claimed throughout the trial that Kekona’s family should not have allowed her to travel by herself. Attorneys for Kekona’s family say that’s a right protected by law.
“The Air Carrier Access Act allows that,” said attorney Robert Gellatly. “And Alaska spent so much time, instead of just accepting accountability, blaming the family. To me that was really not acceptable,” he said. According to Gellatly, none of the 12 jury members allocated fault on the family’s part. “We didn’t just send her out there. We did what we were supposed to do to ensure my mom’s safety to get her to us home. And Alaska didn’t deliver. They just didn’t follow through on their own protocols,” Bloyed said. Alaska Airlines issues a statement, saying “We’re disappointed in the ruling and are evaluating next steps. There is no more important responsibility than the safety and wellbeing of our guests, whether they’re in our care or the care of a vendor.”
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