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May 28, 2020 | Criminal law

Houston, TX – (August 18th, 2018) – Dreams of walking unassisted again have been completely crushed after John “Rudy” Alvarado (62), a previous stroke victim whose use of the right side of his body has diminished, was refused wheelchair service to exit his aircraft in Manilla, Philippines. Mr. Alvarado, who just before his August 2018 trip to the Philippines had high hopes and was working toward his goal of unassisted walking, will likely never be able to walk without assistance again.

Mr. Alvarado was preparing to visit his adopted daughter in Manilla, Philippines. In preparation for this trip, as any trip, Mr. Alvarado reserved special wheelchair service accommodations for his flight from IAH to final destination Manilla. From the very start of this trip, United’s service and wheelchair accommodations were faulty.

The problems began when Mr. Alvarado’s connecting flight from Guam to Manilla was cancelled, leaving Mr. Alvarado stranded in Guam. During this layover, United denied hotel, food, or even luggage accommodations for a considerable 12+-hour layover. While stuck at the airport, United failed to provide wheelchair service while Mr. Alvarado waited for his next flight, leaving Mr. Alvarado without the ability to move freely and responsible for carrying his own luggage. Enduring the struggle, Mr. Alvarado made it through this portion of his journey, excited about the prospect of spending time with his daughter. Sadly, Mr. Alvarado was unable to spend any quality time with his daughter on this trip.

On or about Thursday, August 18th, upon arrival in Manilla, Mr. Alvarado was then refused wheelchair service by United employees for assistance in exit of the aircraft. Bear in mind that upon quick observation Mr. Alvarado is someone who clearly needs a wheelchair or assistance walking. Instead, he was forced to walk down a flight of portable stairs rolled onto the tarmac, then back up another flight of stairs into the MNL airport facility. To make matters worse, the stairs provided were rolling stairs and with an “open riser staircase,” which is a staircase with open vertical spaces between adjacent treads, or steps, rather than enclosed, such that objects can pass through the backs of each step.

In need of a wheelchair, it is no surprise that Mr. Alvarado was seriously injured after being forced to use the stairs provided. On the downward staircase, Mr. Alvarado’s leg slipped and went through the back opening of one of the steps, causing him to fracture his ankle and fall down some more stairs, further injuring other parts of his body.

Then, again, after observing the injury on the downward staircase, United employees told Mr. Alvarado that his only option to get into the airport was going back up another staircase. Mr. Alvarado made an attempt to climb the second staircase but immediately collapsed, further injuring and aggravating his fresh ankle injury in clear view of United employees. United again, even after immediately observing Mr. Alvarado collapse twice, insisted that Mr. Alvarado must go up the second set of stairs. It then took substantial protest by Mr. Alvarado to get United to bring him a wheelchair, which they were able to use to get him into the airport.

For Mr. Alvarado, these injuries have surmounted into now living an entirely different lifestyle, with no happy end in sight.

The Houston based law firm of Mingledorff Law, P.C., through lead counsel, Tommy T. Mingledorff, has filed a claim to this matter and is anticipating filing a lawsuit within the coming weeks if Mr. Alvarado’s demand for recovery to United is not met.

Mingledorff explains, “It is United’s responsibility to exercise the highest degree of care and diligence in the safety of their passengers including the boarding and unloading operations of all their flights. This duty especially extends to United Passengers who have properly requested wheelchair assistance, a service that United offers.

United was grossly negligent in this incident because they should have known that forcing Mr. Alvarado, an obviously disabled stroke victim, to use stairs unassisted would almost certainly result in injury, but United disregarded this risk and forced him to use not one, but two flights of stairs unassisted.

Especially egregious is the fact Mr. Alvarado was outright denied wheelchair service upon arrival in Manilla. Any claim by United that that they legitimately could not provide wheelchair assistance in Manilla, Philippines, is completely belied by United’s ability to find and provide a wheelchair after Mr. Alvarado’s second fall and injury, and by further providing full wheelchair service on Mr. Alvarado’s journey home, including boarding him on a flight departing from Manilla on August 27th, 2018, on the very same tarmac where wheelchair service was previously denied. This is evidence that United willfully chose to engage in their negligence.

United thus far has considered Mr. Alvarado’s injuries as minor and otherwise insignificant. However, Mr. Alvarado’s left ankle was fractured in this incident. This was actually Mr. Alvarado’s “good” leg, the right side having temporarily lost use because of his stroke. Now, without a good leg at all, these injuries have seriously complicated Mr. Alvarado’s walking therapy required to overcome symptoms of his prior stroke.

Before these injuries it was believed by Mr. Alvarado’s physicians, and certainly Mr. Alvarado himself, that he would eventually walk unassisted. Now it is likely he will need assistance for the remainder of his life.

The consequences of these injuries are greater than physical pain. Mr. Alvarado is now practically unable to visit and spend quality time with his adopted daughter in the Philippines again because of the significant pain and discomfort in travel and also fear of recurring problems with airline service, maneuverability abroad, and potential future complications to his health associated with long-distance travel.

Mr. Alvarado’s unfortunate injuries and damages are just one example of many where a big company, such as United Airlines, uses their power to try and sweep legitimate problems they created under the rug. The public should know about what happened to Mr. Alvarado when considering which company to spend their money or travel.

It is simply unacceptable for United to treat their passengers in need of wheelchairs, or any passengers this way. We hope United understands that we will not let them take the easy way out.