A Miami woman and her family are suing Southwest Airlines after an incident that left 25-year-old Gabrielle Assouline with “life-altering” injuries while boarding a plane.
On Feb. 25, 2022, Assouline was thrown from her wheelchair while boarding a Southwest flight at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the lawsuit filed in Broward County circuit court says. She hit a junction in the jet bridge and fell, breaking her neck. Assouline is now paralyzed from the neck down and is on a ventilator.
In court documents, the airline has denied liability for damages.
Assouline sued the airline, G2 Secure Staff and a supervisor at Southwest Airlines for damages. According to the lawsuit, G2 Secure Staff was under contract with Southwest at the time of the accident to “provide wheelchair and related passenger assistance services for Southwest passengers” at the Fort Lauderdale airport.
Assouline uses a wheelchair because she has fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a genetic bone and tissue disease. Her mother said on a fund-raising site that her daughter’s condition never stopped her from living her life.
“Gaby is a fighter,” Sandra Assouline wrote on a GoFundMe to raise money for her recovery. “She is smart, passionate, hilarious, creative, and so resilient. She makes everyone around her better, simply by being her witty, brilliant self. She is taking online college classes, and is an advocate for making life more accessible for people with disabilities.”
The family filed the initial lawsuit in March, less than a month after the accident.
“The last thing a parent would expect is they get a phone call that their daughter fell and is now paralyzed from the neck down,” said Robert Solomon, of the Law Office of Saban & Solomon, who is representing Assouline.
Solomon said the family doesn’t yet know when their daughter may be able to leave the hospital. Because of Assouline’s paralysis, her family is learning to read lips to communicate with her.
In an emailed statement, Southwest said it will continue to “investigate and address the facts and circumstances relating to (Assouline’s) travel experience.”
Solomon said the airline doesn’t need to do much evaluating to figure out the travel experience was a bad one.
“It’s just insensitive, and it’s the boilerplate response we’ve been getting,” Solomon said of Southwest’s statement. “Now we’re gonna fight. Just like their daughter’s fighting, that’s what they hired me to do.”