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American Airlines sued after passenger who suffered midflight emergency dies

The crew chose not to divert the flight, plaintiffs say.

April 26, 2018, 6:12 PM

The family of a South Carolina woman who died after suffering a medical emergency midflight is now suing American Airlines alleging wrongful death.

Brittany Oswell, 25, suffered an embolism while flying from Honolulu, Hawaii to Dallas, Texas two years ago. The lawsuit claims the flight crew never attempted to make an emergency landing and that the onboard medical equipment was faulty.

The lawsuit claims Oswell’s husband, Cory, paged the flight attendants on American Flight 102 about three hours into the trip after she became “dizzy and disoriented” and then fainted. The flight attendants then found a doctor among the other passengers who could further examine Oswell, who at that point was believed to have suffered a panic attack, according to the lawsuit.

PHOTO: Brittany Oswell is pictured with her husband Cory Oswell in an undated handout photo.
Brittany Oswell is pictured with her husband Cory Oswell in an undated handout photo.
Oswell Family Handout

Several hours later, the flight attendants found Oswell on the floor of one of the plane’s lavatories after her husband flagged them down, according to the lawsuit. She had vomited and defecated on herself in the lavatory, the lawsuit states, and the attendants and her husband proceeded to “render assistance.”

The lawsuit alleges that the doctor on the flight told the crew they needed to immediately divert the plane to the nearest airport so that Oswell could receive proper medical care. But with about 90 minutes left until their arrival in Dallas and after a call with a physician who was not on board, the pilots chose not to follow the doctor’s request, according to the lawsuit.

At some point, Oswell’s breathing and pulse stopped, the lawsuit states. The doctor and flight attendants attempted to use a defibrillator on Oswell three times, but the lawsuit claims “no shock was administered.” The two blood pressure cuffs on the plane also failed, according to the lawsuit. The flight crew, after again consulting the on-call physician not on board, decided to continue to Dallas with about 45 minutes left until arrival, the lawsuit states.

Those assisting Oswell performed CPR on her for the remainder of the trip, according to the lawsuit.

Oswell was transported to Baylor Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with anoxic brain damage and an acute embolism, the lawsuit states. She never regained consciousness after her pulse stopped on the flight and was taken off life support on April 18, 2016, three days after being admitted to the hospital, according to the lawsuit.

PHOTO: An American Airlines plane sits at the gate at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Oct. 17, 2017.
An American Airlines plane sits at the gate at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Oct. 17, 2017.
Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

Tina Starks, Oswell’s mother, told ABC News she believes American Airlines should have diverted the flight as soon as Oswell was observed in a distressed state.

“We absolutely felt like this was not taken very seriously,” Starks said. “She’s no longer here to do anything with us and it’s all because someone made a business decision to keep flying a plane when she needed emergency medical help that they could not provide because of inadequacies on board the flight."

“One person makes a decision and it changes our whole life, our outcome, everything,” said Chris Starks, Oswell’s father.

American Airlines, in a statement to ABC News about the lawsuit, said: "We take the safety of our passengers very seriously and we are looking into the details of the complaint."

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