Injured veteran sues airline for mistreatment and injuries

THOMASVILLE, N.C. — A Piedmont veteran is suing an airline that he alleges mistreated him.

Jospeh Smith is a retired Army Sergeant and a former Marine. Back in 2010, Smith was traveling to Colorado Springs to train with his Paralympic shooting team. 

He left from Charlotte and had a connecting flight in Chicago at O’Hare airport. Smith says trouble started when an employee tried to help him off the plane. 

“As you go out the doorway of the plane you’ve got the gap between the plane and the jetway and my two front wheels get stuck in  that gap, and that’s when I landed on my head,” Smith said.

He says he was never asked if he needed medical attention. Smith wheeled himself through the concourse to his gate. The plane to Colorado Springs loaded outside.  Smith knew his wheelchair was too wide to make it onto the ramp.

“It’s wide at the bottom and when you get to the top its only 12 inches wide,” Smith said.

He says he told an Air Serv employee that he was going to need one of the airport’s aisle wheelchairs in order to fit. 

Smith says an employee was in the process of getting one when another employee yelled to just get Smith onto the plane.

“So I crawl on my butt backwards and then seven aisles back,” he said.

During the struggle, Smith says his catheter bag ruptured.

“My leg bag broke, so I had urine all over me it was so embarassing. Eveyrone was looking at me,” Smith said.

When he landed in Colorado Springs, Smith wasn’t able to practice with his team. He says he went to see a doctor who told him he had a concussion and nerve damage.

Smith is suing United Air Lines and Air Serv for being mistreated.  “If they want to fight, I was a marine and a solider I’m ready to fight.” 

Smith says this lawsuit isn’t about money it’s about making sure no one else has to go through what he had to go through that day.

“You treat people with respect and they’re suppose to give you respect back, well that doesn’t always happen,” he said.

Air Serv has not returned our phone calls. United Air Lines has said their preliminary review doesn’t match up with Mr. Smith’s version of events.

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