CHICAGO - A Chicago woman is suing a major airline after she alleged that her custom wheelchair was lost without explanation and returned damaged.
To make matters worse, she says she was publicly humiliated at the airport.
The woman, who has spinal muscular atrophy and relies on her custom mechanized wheelchair, says a series of mishaps while returning from her vacation in the Dominican Republic led to a painful and embarrassing ordeal.
One year ago, Shannon O'Brien was on a flight from Punta Cana to O'Hare International Airport when an emergency forced it to divert to Orlando.
The only times O'Brien leaves her wheelchair, which costs tens of thousands of dollars and took months to build, is when she sleeps, showers or travels by plane.
Once in Orlando, she alleges that Frontier could not locate her wheelchair and she went more than 12 hours before they could find it.
Yet, when she boarded another flight to Chicago the next day, the wheelchair was misplaced again.
She says she was helped home by loved ones and bedridden while the airline searched for it. When she got it back, however, the custom footplate was detached and broken.
Plus, her attorney says an airline rep in Orlando publicly embarrassed her.
"Other members of her family were at the baggage claim and then an announcement was made by a rep from Frontier Airlines. ‘Your baggage is being delayed because a lady in a wheelchair can't get off the plane,’" said Lance Northcutt, partner at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard. "Now, she has the added humiliation of Frontier Airlines."
O'Brien and her attorneys are now suing on one count of negligence for losing and damaging her wheelchair along with humiliating her.
"I'm doing this not just on behalf of myself but so that no one else has to go through this," said O'Brien.
A spokesperson for the Denver-based airline recognized the series of mishaps as a "significant inconvenience" and extended its apologies to O'Brien and her family, adding that this lawsuit was the first they’d heard from O'Brien since last November.
Frontier Airlines’ statement went on to say: "We had multiple team members working to reunite her with her chair and ultimately placed it on another airline to get it to her as quickly as possible. She was provided contact information so that she could reach out to us at any time with any further concerns or issues."