WHOSE FAULT IS IT A matter of responsibility

Posted on 08/27/2015 | About New York City, New York

A family is suing American Airlines for losing a family member with Alzheimer’s at LaGuardia. The incident happened last January and the man was apparently found three days later wandering around Brooklyn 25 miles from the airport. This is a tragic story, but is the airline at fault?
Keraphline Dupuy’s 52-year-old father Josaphat Dupuy, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and she had decided to fly him back to their native Haiti for care by family members. Dupuy, and her grandmother took her father to the airport. “First thing we did was tell the attendant that my father has Alzheimer’s and dementia and he cannot be by himself,” Dupuy, 27, told the New York Daily News. Another relative was apparently waiting at a Miami layover, and Dupuy said, “We put him in a wheelchair with the attendant, watching him get to the gate. And that was the last time we saw my dad.”

Then the family member in Miami reported that Mr. Dupuy didn’t show up. After multiple calls to the airline, Dupuy eventually returned to the airport hoping to find her father. According to the Daily News a ticket counter representative for American Airlines said he was not noted in their system as needing special assistance, though Dupuy insists she had made that specific request. Port Authority police checked video footage but found he had not cleared security nor boarded the flight.

A search ensued and eventually his unattended luggage was found on a Brooklyn street. In addition to his passport, it also contained papers from New York University Langone Medical Center in Manhattan which he had apparently visited, complaining of a backache, during the period he was missing. His angry daughter said her father was “just put back out into the streets” (presumably by the hospital). He was also later billed almost $1,000 for the visit. A local resident finally saw him, found Dupuy’s contact information in his wallet and notified her.

Claiming no explanation or apology by the airline after the incident, Keraphline is planning a federal lawsuit, the New York Daily News reported. According to the paper, American Airlines did refund the $304.60 plane ticket that went unused. An airline spokesperson declined to discuss details of the case, citing the imminent litigation. “This is a textbook case of negligence,” Dupuy’s attorney, Peter Withey told the Daily News. “We are looking for them to at least acknowledge this even happened.”

“I want American Airlines to take responsibility for what happened,” said Dupuy. There are a lot of questions that could be asked about this incident, but is it in fact the airline’s responsibility? Can you reasonably expect airline personnel – including flight attendants - to take the responsibility for a passenger who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia and admittedly “cannot be by himself.” That really is beyond the remit of the airline. What happened to Mr. Dupuy is extremely unfortunate, and the “who said what” aspects of the situation aside, if a person requires constant and/or specialized attention then a family member or caregiver should travel with that person. To simply hand them over and expect door-to-door care is, at best, unrealistic. Airline personnel are not nurses or nannies and it is unfair to them - and to the other passengers - to expect staff to devote their time to a single individual who may prove difficult or troublesome – particularly in an emergency.

If the airline is at fault anywhere, it is perhaps in the fact that they did not refuse to carry Mr. Dupuy without a caregiver accompanying him. It will be interesting to see how this is resolved.