Thursday, July 26, 2018

Segalman v. Southwestern Airlines (9th Cir. - July 23, 2018)

Here's one person's experience with Southwest Airlines:

"Robert Segalman has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair. In 2009 and 2010, Segalman’s wheelchair was repeatedly damaged while in the possession of Southwest Airlines Co. (“Southwest”). On one occasion, Southwest returned Segalman’s wheelchair to him without a seatbelt, which had been attached when Segalman left the wheelchair in Southwest’s care at the airport departure gate. Before Segalman could get an appointment to replace the seatbelt, he fell out of his wheelchair and broke his shin in two places, resulting in a four-day hospital stay. On another occasion, Southwest returned the wheelchair to Segalman with a broken armrest. On a third occasion, Southwest returned the wheelchair with damage to the joystick that rendered the wheelchair inoperative."

Mr. Segalman subsequently sues, claiming that Southwest “discriminated against an otherwise qualified individual” on the ground that the individual “has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities” 49 U.S.C. § 41705(a) in violation of federal law.  But the Ninth Circuit holds that this statute doesn't create an implied private right of action.

Maybe he'll be able to sue on some future date, because Congress is thinking about amending the statute to create an express private right of action.  Though that assumes (1) that the amendment is passed, and (2) Segalman keeps flying Southwest.

I don't know whether (1) will transpire.  But my guess is that (2) might -- perhaps surprisingly -- still happen.  Because for some inexplicable reason, Mr. Segalman kept flying Southwest even after it allegedly continued to repeatedly damage his wheelchair in flight.  So maybe he'll keep on that same path.  But for now, he's out of luck.