Alaska Airlines ordered to pay Spokane family for mother’s death from escalator injury
SEATTLE, Wash. — In a case delayed by COVID-19, a jury Monday ruled in favor of a Spokane family and ordered Alaska Airlines to pay nearly $3.2 million for their mother’s wrongful death from an injury suffered in a fall down an escalator.
Bernice Kekona, 75, was traveling to Hawaii to visit family. Because of her age and physical condition, her family arranged for her to have an Alaska Airlines escort from gate to gate. They did not provide one and Kekona became disoriented. On video from Portland International Airport, you can see Kekona in her wheelchair falling down 21 steps of a moving escalator.
Kekona suffered serious injuries in the fall, including a leg wound that never properly healed and ultimately led to her death.
Kekona’s family sued Alaska Airlines under the Air Carrier Access Act. After delays due to the pandemic, the trial was finally held completely over Zoom.
The jury came back with its verdict Monday afternoon, finding Alaska Airlines responsible for her wrongful death.
Kekona suffered multiple injuries in the fall, including escalator teeth marks on her face and trauma to her head and chest.
A cut to her Achilles tendon never healed, despite thousands of dollars in medical care.
“She’d lay in bed screaming, banging on the walls, pounding on her other [prothstetic] leg to take away the pain,” Kekona’s granddaughter Desiree Kekahuna told 4 News Now in 2017.
The wound went septic. Doctors amputated the leg and Kekona died the next day.
The family’s attorneys maintained the federal Air Carrier Access Act lays out protections for disabled passengers. It says “airlines are required to provide assistance with boarding, deplaning and making connections.”
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