Before boarding her flight from Chicago to Miami in August 2014, five-foot-tall Nima Ayyash, then 51, found she couldn't lift her carry-on bag into the overhead compartment of her American Airlines flight. So she asked a flight attendant to pack it for her.
The plane landed at Miami International Airport August 28. And when Ayyash tried to remove her bag, she says, it was so tightly wedged into an overstuffed baggage compartment she had to yank to get it out. Ayyash says she had to pull the bag out with so much force that it flew out of the compartment, hit her in the chest, and knocked her into the armrest behind her.
Some would see this as a case of bad luck after an already-frustrating day of air travel. But Ayyash sees it as negligence and filed suit against American Airlines in Miami-Dade County Court June 14.
"Due to injuries sustained during the incident, paramedics transported Plaintiff Ayyash to the emergency room at the University of Miami Hospital to treat her for her injuries, including but not limited to: a contusion on her chest wall, back pain, and neck pain," the complaint reads. (The case was transferred to federal court yesterday.)
Ayyash also says that because of the accident, she "endured months of physical therapy and medical treatment, which included surgery."
In addition, she says, she tried, and failed, to get help from a flight attendant before removing the bag herself.
Apparently, falling-luggage lawsuits have been such a problem for airlines over the past few decades that the nation's flight-attendant union held an entire conference on the subject in 1997. That year, the Wall Street Journal reported that more than 4,500 U.S. passengers were hit by falling luggage annually.
"It's not just carry-ons that are falling on peoples' heads," the Journal wrote. "It's boxes of wine, bowling balls, boom boxes, jars of jam, and crutches. One recent traveler, Lea Ray, tells of a fellow passenger who brought a bloody yak's leg on board; another passenger recalls someone trying to cram a 60-pound wooden carving of a bear into a bin."
Ayyash, meanwhile, had begun her trip in Amman, Jordan, and her Chicago flight was simply the second half of a long journey to return home to South Florida. (She lives in Broward County.) Because her trip originated in Jordan, Ayyash claims, she's covered by an international treaty called the Montreal Convention, which governs international air travel.
In a nutshell, that treaty says any injuries sustained on an international flight are the airline's fault. Ayyash hopes that includes dropping your own luggage on yourself.
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