A Southwest Airways flight attendant has filed a wrongful demise lawsuit towards the airline, alleging that lax COVID protocols throughout obligatory coaching final summer season and slack contact tracing after an attendee examined constructive led to her husband’s demise from the virus.
Carol Madden, a 69-year-old Baltimore-based flight attendant who has labored for Southwest since 2016, is searching for greater than $three million in damages for what the lawsuit says was the airline’s negligence, in response to the swimsuit filed in U.S. District Court docket in Maryland.
She and her husband, Invoice, a veteran and retired railroad sign engineer who drove her dwelling from the one-day coaching session at Baltimore-Washington Worldwide Airport in July, acquired sick days after the coaching and ultimately examined constructive for COVID-19. Invoice’s oxygen ranges plunged, and his well being deteriorated so quickly he could not take his personal temperature. He died just a few weeks later in a York, Pennsylvania, hospital, with COVID pneumonia listed as the primary explanation for demise. He was 73.
Madden, a most cancers survivor who stayed on the job all through the pandemic, informed USA TODAY she “firmly believes my husband would nonetheless be right here” if Southwest had utilized the identical strict security protocols for workers because it does for passengers. It even coined a time period for the latter, the Southwest Promise.
“They have been cleansing the seats. They have been cleansing the air vents. They have been cleansing the seat belts. Each touchpoint was cleaned,”‘ she stated in an interview Tuesday. “They didn’t try this in my coaching final yr.”
“I really like my airline, however they did not love me again.”
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Southwest Airways filed a movement Friday to dismiss the case. Within the submitting, the airline expressed its sympathy to Madden and others who’ve misplaced relations to COVID-19 however stated blaming the airline for his demise is “misplaced.”
The airline stated it’s required to supply a “fairly secure work surroundings” for workers however that the “obligation of care” duty doesn’t prolong to spouses or others within the family, even in circumstances of transmission of illnesses at work. The corporate additionally stated there isn’t a technique to know exactly the place or when she contracted the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“The claims asserted within the grievance mirror an understandably emotional response to a devastating private loss, however they aren’t actionable underneath the regulation,” the airline stated.
Madden’s lawyer, Dan Mastromarco of The Mastromarco Agency, stated he’s making ready a authorized response.
From dream job to heartbreak
Madden grew to become a Southwest flight attendant at age 64 after a number of different careers, together with actual property and paralegal providers.
“I’ve worn seven hats in my life,” she stated. “This was my dream.”
The New York native stated she was capable of chase her dream as a result of her husband was retired and took care of all the pieces at dwelling and shuttled her to and from the airport. The pair met when she was 12 and he was 17 and have been married for 35 years.
“He was an outstanding man. He had a coronary heart of gold,” she stated. “There’s nothing and nobody that may substitute him.”
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Southwest flight attendant coaching: Masks however few different COVID safeguards, lawsuit says
The Federal Aviation Administration requires recurrent coaching for flight attendants, and Madden stated she was initially signed up for April 2020. It was moved to mid-July because of the onset of the pandemic.
Southwest flight attendants and instructors weren’t screened for COVID signs previous to or throughout the day-long coaching or requested about COVID publicity, in response to the lawsuit.
Masks have been required, however there was no hand sanitizer equipped, and tools from hearth extinguishers to megaphones wasn’t sanitized between makes use of, the lawsuit says.
The human-sized dummy used for self-defense coaching wasn’t wiped down both, regardless of flight attendants’ “intensive bodily contact” with it. The dummy’s identify: Bob.
“Southwest didn’t sanitize Bob or any of the opposite tools used throughout this proficiency coaching,” the lawsuit says.
Social distancing was sparse, Madden stated.
“We have been at six-foot tables, folding tables with legs,” she stated. “You are not six ft aside. You are perhaps 4 ft or much less.”
All would have lowered the prospect for COVID transmission, the lawsuit says.
In a press release, Southwest Airways spokesman Brad Hawkins prolonged the airline’s sympathy to Madden and stated the well-being of Southwest’s staff and prospects has been its “uncompromising precedence” because the starting of the pandemic.
“Southwest has taken enhanced measures to scrub and preserve our plane, airports and work facilities and follows all notification tips in accordance with the (Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention),” Hawkins stated in a press release. “Moreover, the Southwest crew works every day to make sure that our multi-layered strategy to supporting our staff’ and prospects’ security stays present with analysis findings and public well being suggestions. Southwest will proceed our devoted efforts to help our folks and communities as we collectively work collectively to gradual the unfold of COVID-19 throughout the ongoing pandemic.”
American Airways briefly suspended flight attendant coaching final fall after several instructors tested positive for COVID.
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Delayed contact tracing: ‘I discovered it out by Fb’
The day after she returned dwelling from coaching, on July 23, Madden stated she known as Southwest to inform them she and her husband was sick with COVID signs and he or she would not have the ability to work an upcoming journey. She and her husband acquired COVID exams that day, however the outcomes weren’t anticipated for finally a number of days attributable to a backlog.
“They informed me they’d not pay me or they’d not take (attendance) factors away till I proved that I had COVID,” she stated.
What the airline and her union did not inform her, she stated: somebody in her coaching group had examined constructive for COVID just a few days after returning dwelling, a number of days earlier than Madden reported her signs to each events and effectively earlier than her husband turned gravely in poor health.
Madden discovered in regards to the case from a flight attendant group on Fb the following day and was fuming.
“I used to be devastated after I came upon that the lady that was on the desk with me had COVID,” she stated.
The lawsuit says Madden may have remoted from her husband early on if Southwest had instantly knowledgeable her of the constructive check of a co-worker.
Southwest’s community operations middle did not inform her of the constructive case till July 27, 10 days after the constructive consequence and 14 days after coaching.
She remembers the decision this fashion: “Oh, you bought uncovered to COVID-19 at class however you are good to go and your quarantine is over and you may return.”
It did not matter, she stated, that she informed the supervisor she and her husband have been nonetheless sick with COVID signs.
“They did not are about us,” she stated. “We have been expendable.”
Madden took a while off after her husband died however is again to flying for Southwest.
“I needed to put my grief, my loneliness,” she stated, “I needed to put that underneath my uniform.”
This text initially appeared on USA TODAY: Southwest Airlines flight attendant sues after husband’s COVID death