In a follow up to a press release posted in November, the husband of Vilma Soltesz, a morbidly obese woman who died in Hungary while waiting for a flight home to the United States, has filed a $6 million wrongful death lawsuit against three major airlines. According to an ABC News report, the suit that was filed in New York City, names Delta Airlines, KLM and Lufthansa.
According to court documents, Vilma Soltesz and her husband, Janos Soltesz, flew from New York in mid-September to Budapest, Hungary, connecting through Amsterdam. They purchased three seats in all – two for Vilma and one for Janos. In early October, the couple tried to return when Vilma Soltesz began to feel ill. Soltesz weighed 407 pounds, had an amputated leg and was wheelchair-bound.
Repeated Attempts to Fly
When they attempted to return on an Oct. 15 flight, the captain ordered them to disembark because the seatbacks of two seats in the row they were sitting were broken and there was no way for Soltesz to maneuver her wheelchair into her assigned seats, the lawsuit states. They tried a few hours later to take a Delta flight to New York, but the airline did not have the proper wheelchair to transport her and they were forced to get off that flight as well.
A few days later, the couple again tried to board a Lufthansa flight, but was again asked to get off because it was causing “too much of a delay.” Soltesz died in Hungary of kidney failure before their travel arrangements could be made again. Delta has called the lawsuit “entirely without merit.”
Change in Airline Procedures
Hopefully, a number of facts will emerge from this wrongful death lawsuit. It is particularly of interest here in the United States. In 2010, according to the National Institutes of Health, 15.5 million adult Americans or 6.6 percent of the population, were classified as “morbidly obese.” In this case, I trust a number of questions will be asked during the trial.
Why did the airlines not make the necessary arrangements ahead of time when they knew about Vilma Soltesz specific and unique requirements? Why was the couple made to disembark at least in two instances after they had been issued boarding passes and after they had gotten into the aircraft? What attempts did the airlines’ staff make to ensure that her needs were met? When this case is concluded, it will hopefully set a precedent and also encourage airlines to come up with policies and procedures to accommodate all passengers.