CHICAGO — A suburban woman is taking legal action against Frontier Airline over a damaged wheelchair.
Last year, Shannon O’Brien was flying home from the Dominican Republic — but when she landed, her wheelchair was not on board.
She said it was returned days later and badly damaged.
“My wheelchair is my legs. Without that, I can’t be independent or successful,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said during that time, she was bedridden until the wheelchair arrived, describing the wait as more than an inconvenience.
“I’m doing this, not just on behalf of myself, but so no one else has to go through this,” she said.
O’Brien is entirely dependent on the wheelchair due to a genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy, which causes her to have minimal movement in her arms and legs. She needs the wheelchair to move, get to work and get around.
It’s why O’Brien’s attorney, Lance Northcutt, is suing Frontier Airlines for negligence, alleging physical and emotional injuries. He said this lawsuit is the first step in an effort to improve travel experiences for people in wheelchairs.
“Shannon spent 12 hours in great pain in the Orlando Airport all night long, having been kept from her wheelchair, which they could not retrieve from the cargo hold for one reason or another,” Northcutt said. “What every member of the disabled community faces, if they use a mechanized wheelchair, is the daunting reality that traveling on airlines comes with nothing but risk and stress.”
Frontier Airlines apologized in a written statement, saying in part, “We wish to again extend our apologies to Ms. O’Brien and her family for the significant inconvenience caused by the temporary absence of her wheelchair. 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.”