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Published on Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Airlines face multi-million dollar lawsuit after death of obese woman

Delta and KLM have been threatened with a $6m lawsuit from the husband of a clinically obese woman who died while on holiday in Hungary after she was refused a seat home for medical treatment.

He is seeking damages from the airlines claiming they failed to properly care for his wife, who was wheelchair-bound and weighed over 30 stone.

Vilma Soltez died from health complications after failed attempts to board her on three separate flights, one with KLM, a second with its partner Delta, and a third with Lufthansa.

She had travelled with her husband to her summer home in Hungary with Delta and KLM Airlines but had reportedly put on weight during her trip.

According to a report in the New York Post, the couple's travel agent had told Delta/KLM before the trip that she needed to return home on October 15 to continue with medical treatment for kidney problems and diabetes.

But her husband Janos claimed the couple were told they could not fly on their original Delta/KLM flight from Hungary because the aircraft did not have the necessary seat extension.

He said they were directed to drive to Prague for a Delta/KLM flight home. At Prague, Soltez could not be transferred to the flight because equipment could not be found that would hold her weight.

Their New York travel agent then found them another flight with Lufthansa, via Frankfurt, but this was not viable for the same reasons despite three seats being available for the passenger.

According to reports, a local fire crew were bought in to help move her into the seats but they could not lift her out of her wheelchair.

A spokesman for Delta said: "Delta offers its sincere condolences to the family on the passing of Vilma Soltesz. After the operating carrier in Budapest (KLM) was physically unable to board Mrs. Soltesz on its flight, and despite a determined good-faith effort by Delta in Prague, we were also physically unable to board her on our aircraft on October 16."

Delta said the two airlines did everything possible to assist the family and had made repeated attempts for nearly an hour to help the lady board.

Lufthansa said: "Lufthansa, together with its local partners, fire brigade and technical experts at Budapest Airport, tried its utmost to accommodate this passenger on board our flight from Budapest.

"After several, time-consuming attempts it was decided that for the safety of this passenger and the over 140 fellow passengers, Lufthansa had to deny transportation of the passenger. Safe and reliable operations are Lufthansa's paramount priorities at all times."

Do you think the airlines could have done more to assist this passenger? Tell us your thoughts by clicking the Comment button below.







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  • Delta should not be liable

    Too many passengers have forgotten their role and their responsibility to use a mass-transportation service provider.

    By Brent J Garback, Friday, December 21, 2012

  • I agree

    Very relevant comment from Richard English. Of course this woman would have been flown back home by air ambulance should she have had the relevant insurance. Normal airlines are not allowed to take people with severe medical conditions, for the safety of the rest of the passengers.

    By Joanna Skinner, Wednesday, November 28, 2012

  • Airlines can't carry everyone...

    ...and everything. There must be - and already are - limits related to passengers' medical conditions - pregnancy and infirmity to name but two. I do wonder, though, whether these passengers had taken out proper travel insurance. Surely, if a seriously ill passenger was unable to travel by scheduled carrier then this would be a case for an air ambulance or other charter.

    By Richard English, Wednesday, November 28, 2012

  • Delta should not be liable

    The legal test should be limited to "reasonable actions to accommodate". The amount of time and number of personnel managing this ladies reservation, should be added to her airline-fare. Delta does not operate a charter jet service for the convenience, of one couple, with very unusual and special requirements.

    By Brent J Garback, Wednesday, November 28, 2012

  • What about the other passengers

    With airline seats only rated up to 175 lbs for safety, the airlines did what was right for the safety of everyone else on board.

    By Tracy Ann Bobak-Ho, Tuesday, November 27, 2012

  • Why did she travel?

    She was in a bad way from the very first, she should have got her treatment and got in good shape before undertaking such a trip. Now the hubby is blaming everyone else and facing up to their total lack of common sense.

    By William Staines, Tuesday, November 27, 2012

  • what happened to compassion?

    Michael, your comment is not only unfair but also not medically correct. Does a smoker with lung cancer not really have lung cancer because he caused the problem? Aside from the ethical dilemmas of such medical issues, there has been increasing debate and ongoing research into what exactly makes somebody over eat leading to chronic obesity. Whether the cause be physical or psychological, it is not necessarily the sufferer who wishes to be the way they are. Indeed do you not think they would invariably wish to be a 'normal' weight were it within their capabilities? It is another issue entirely as to whether the lady in question was treated as fairly as possible in the circumstances by the airlines and airport staff. The legal implications will no doubt raise all the issues of care and safety in time, but in the meantime our sympathies should go out to the family- no matter the weight, there would be somebody who loved her dearly.

    By derek small, Tuesday, November 27, 2012

  • What if they had boarded her

    I would love to know what would have happened if the airlines had boarded her and she had passed away on board. Surely they would have been up for more liability? There are reasons why airlines have safety precautions. We all know we can't board if we are drunk, more than 8 month pregnant, ill etc. Why would this case be different? Surely she would have risked the safety of other passengers had they boarded her?

    By Rikke Hackner, Tuesday, November 27, 2012

  • Obese is not disabled !!!

    Over eating does not make you disabled because the over eater caused the problem.

    By Michael Anderson, Tuesday, November 27, 2012

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