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Schmidt v. United Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

February 27, 2019

RUSSELL AND STACEY SCHMIDT, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to 12(b)(6), [Doc. No. 11]. Plaintiffs oppose the Motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be granted.

         Facts and Background[1]

         For the purposes of the Motion to Dismiss, the following facts, taken from Plaintiff's petition, are taken as true.

         The plaintiffs' minor daughter suffered injuries in a car wreck that left her paralyzed and required to use a wheelchair. Plaintiffs' daughter used a common electric wheelchair.

         In December of 2016, the Schmidt family was scheduled to go on a vacation that included a Disney Cruise. They were to fly on United from St.

         Louis to Houston and then, after their vacation, back from Houston to St. Louis.

         The Schmidt family's travel arrangements had them leaving St. Louis on December 23, 2016.

         On December 9 and again on December 16, Mr. Schmidt called United and spoke with a member of the customer care staff about needing to stow the electric wheelchair on the airplane. He told United about the wheelchair and was repeatedly assured that United "deals with this all of the time" and was told not to worry. United never asked for the make and model of the wheelchair.

         When the Schmidt family arrived at the United desk at Lambert on December 23, they again asked about the wheelchair. Again, they were told not to worry. After seeing the wheelchair, no one from United ever commented that there was anything unusual or unforeseeable about it.

         Given the minor child's disability, the Schmidt family was pre-boarded on their flight. After the plane was loaded, Mr. Schmidt was told he was going to have to help the baggage handlers load the wheelchair. In front of all of the passengers, he was escorted off the plane and taken down on to the tarmac to help load the wheelchair onto the plane. Mr. Schmidt helped the baggage handlers lift the 400 pound wheelchair up onto the conveyor belt ramp. He then helped the baggage handlers guide the wheelchair up the ramp, only to find that it would not fit under the jet engine.

         The baggage handlers did not have any idea how to handle the situation. Mr. Schmidt told everyone they needed to partially disassemble the wheelchair to get it into the cargo hold. A tool kit was found, but not before a United employee angrily confronted Mr. Schmidt for being on the tarmac. Once that situation was resolved, Mr. Schmidt partially disassembled the wheelchair and helped the baggage handlers get the chair in the cargo hold.

         Thereafter, Mr. Schmidt was escorted back to the plane, which was now an hour late taking off. He was jeered and booed by some of the passengers on the plane.

         After arriving at Houston, the baggage handlers were able to unload the wheelchair without involving Mr. Schmidt. However, Mr. Schmidt had to help the baggage crew remove the wheelchair from the conveyor and then, wait for nearly an hour while United personnel found the tools needed to reassemble it.

         Three days into their vacation, the wheelchair began to malfunction due to damage sustained on the flight from St. Louis to Houston.

         Given that they were out at sea and there was not a replacement wheelchair available, Mr. Schmidt did what he could to keep the wheelchair functional for his daughter. The malfunctioning wheelchair caused significant problems and ...


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