Along with Delta, Frontier, American Airlines, Jet Blue and United, Southwest Airlines carries passengers to and from Raleigh-Durham International Airport every day. One of the nation’s leading low-cost carriers, Southwest Airlines recently suffered a major setback in its efforts to prevail in a premises liability lawsuit.
The airline had asked for summary judgment in the trip-and-fall case that had its genesis in a 2017 incident as a passenger was trying to board a flight that originated in the Dominican Republic.
Southwest had asked the U.S. District Court judge to issue a summary judgment after it argued that the passenger’s fall had not been the result of an accident.
The plaintiff in the case was trying in April of 2017 to board a plane in Punta Cana, a lavish resort area on the easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic known as the meeting spot between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
The man said his foot became stuck between the riser and tread of the air stairs provided by Southwest for passengers to board the aircraft. He was wearing athletic shoes at the time, as he climbed the stairs behind his wife.
He said he fell forward as his foot became lodged in the gap in the stairs. His ankle turned as he fell, he said. When he got back home in the U.S., he was diagnosed with torn ligaments and told he would need surgery and a cast to repair the damage.
Southwest argued that the plaintiff’s own misstep caused his injury. The judge determined that the plaintiff’s fall was the result of a series of events, including a Southwest contractor’s inflation of the stairs that created the gap.
The case settled after the court’s ruling on the motion for summary judgment.
If you have been injured on someone else’s property, discuss your rights and options with an attorney experienced in premises liability litigation.