COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The attorney for the family of a Midlands woman who died in 2016 following a seven-hour flight on American Airlines is speaking out about a recently filed lawsuit.
Christopher and Tina Starks, the parents of 25-year-old Brittany Oswell, along with Oswell's husband Cory filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the major airline in federal court earlier this month.
The suit alleges negligence on behalf of the airline, citing the captain's refusal to land the plane and broken medical equipment among other things.
"There were no indicators when she boarded the plane and she left the plane on a stretcher," Brad Cranshaw, the family's attorney, said.
Oswell and her husband boarded the flight from Honolulu to Dallas on the evening of April 14, 2016. About three hours into the flight, the suit claims Brittany became dizzy, disoriented and started slurring her speech. Soon after, she fainted.
The complaint states a private doctor was aboard the plane and after talking with Brittany, thought she might be having a panic attack.
Several hours later, Oswell went to the plane bathroom where she vomited and defecated on herself. It was then the doctor instructed the flight attendants to tell the captain to divert the plane to the nearest airport to get Brittany emergency medical attention.
As her condition deteriorated, the doctor once again spoke with the captain making him aware of the seriousness of Brittany's condition, the complaint states. The captain then called the airline's on-call doctor and after a brief discussion continued on course to Dallas.
"Why a doctor a thousand miles away on the phone...why you listen to him rather than a doctor 10 feet away holding my client on the cabin floor," Cranshaw said. "I don't understand it and it's what our lawsuit addresses."
When the flight was about 90 minutes away from Dallas, Oswell stopped breathing. The doctor and flight attendants began performing CPR after a defibrillator on board malfunctioned. The suit also mentions a blood pressure cuff was broken.
Once the plane landed in Dallas, Oswell was taken to Baylor Medical Center where she was placed on life support for three days before doctors declared her brain dead. A cause of death was ruled as a massive blood clot in her lung.
"The concept that you would fall into distress of this nature and a doctor would ask for immediate help and it would not be gr anted, those are the types of questions we want answered," Cranshaw said.
The airline has yet to respond to the lawsuit, but issued this statement to WIS: "We take the safety of our passengers very seriously and we are looking into the details of this complaint."
Cranshaw said the family is asking a jury to determine the amount of damages they are owed by the airline. It is also looking for changes to training and protocol for these kinds of situations. He also said the family has yet to receive an apology from American Airlines regarding the incident.