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Paralyzed vet claims United mistreated him

Nov. 14, 2012 at 9:44 AM

CHICAGO, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- A paralyzed military veteran sued Chicago-based United Airlines, saying airline and O'Hare International Airport-affiliated staff mistreated him two years ago.

In his suit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, Marine Corps Sgt. Joseph Smith of North Carolina alleged United and Air Serv Corp. employees refused to help him to his seat during a layover in Chicago Nov. 19, 2010, among other things, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.

Smith, who requires a wheelchair to travel after being paralyzed in Afghanistan, was traveling to Colorado Springs for training as part of a Paralympic shooting team, his lawyer, Alexander Loftus, said.

The suit seeks $300,000 in damages. It alleged that, upon arrival at O'Hare, an Air Serv employee ignored Smith's alert that his wheelchair was stuck, causing him to fall, strike his head and suffer a concussion.

Although an Air Serv employee helped Smith get back into his chair, he had to wheel himself to his connecting flight, the suit said. Once there, United and Air Serv employees allegedly refused to find a chair to transport Smith to his seat or switch his seat to the first row, the lawsuit claimed.

The suit also alleged Smith was forced to drag his "limp body" down the aircraft's aisle, causing his catheter bag to break and leak urine. No one offered to help Smith and he was forced to sit in his urine until he arrived in Colorado Springs, the lawsuit charged.

In a statement, United Airlines spokesman Christen David said, "Our preliminary review does not corroborate Mr. Smith's version of events."

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