Florida Woman Sues Southwest Airlines After She Was Paralyzed in Wheelchair Accident

July 12, 2022

A Florida woman is suing Dallas-based Southwest Airlines after a wheelchair accident while boarding left her paralyzed.

The suit, filed in Broward County Court in Florida, said 24-year-old Gaby Assouline was “thrown” from a wheelchair while taking herself down the jet bridge to a flight at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in February, even though she asked for help.

Assouline’s family said she is paralyzed from the neck down after falling on her head, cracking vertebrae and suffering spinal cord injuries, according to a GoFundMe page her mother, Sandra, is managing. The family’s GoFundMe page had raised $112,360 as of last week.

“She can’t speak because she has a tube down her throat, and she has no movement below her neck,” Sandra Assouline wrote on the online fundraising page. “The fear and pain she is showing in her eyes when she wakes up in those brief moments of clarity is too much to bear.”

The lawsuit is asking Southwest to pay for her medical care and physical and mental damages that Assouline suffered in the accident. Those costs could be substantial considering that after getting out of the hospital, she will likely need “occupational, speech, physical, psychological and many other therapies,” her suit said.

Southwest Airlines, in a statement, said it “will continue to work with the customer and other parties involved to investigate and address the facts and circumstances relating to the travel experience.”

“Southwest Airlines’ primary priority is the safety of our people and customers both on the ground and in the air,” said a statement from spokesman Chris Perry. “We have reviewed the customer’s initial account of her travel experience and have offered a response directly to those involved.”

According to the lawsuit, Assouline was traveling from South Florida to Denver International Airport on Feb. 25. Because she suffered from preexisting muscle tissue disease, she asked for a wheelchair.

She asked for assistance to be wheeled down the jet bridge, but was denied by a Southwest supervisor, the lawsuit said. As she was wheeling herself down the bridge, she was “caused to be thrown from the wheelchair, thereby sustaining catastrophic/life-altering personal injuries,” the suit said.

After the accident, Assouline went into cardiac arrest and, after she was revived, a tube was placed in her throat preventing her from speaking.

“Nothing stopped her from living her life before,” Sandra Assouline wrote. “Gaby is a jewel in our family. Gaby gives so much to everyone she knows.”

The lawsuit claims Southwest should have warned the woman about dangerous conditions on the jet bridge and provided proper training to employees for helping passengers with wheelchairs.

Assouline is also suing Irving-based G2 Secure Staff, the contractor providing wheelchair escorts at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

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