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Tammy Spears, Advocate for Disabled Airline Passengers, Passes Away
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, PC Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, PC
Jerome, ID
Thursday, January 7, 2021

Tammy Spears, Advocate for Disabled Airline Passengers, Passes Away

The law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman is saddened to report that client and friend Tammy Spears passed away on Jan. 4, 2021. She is survived by her husband, Greg, and son, Robert.

Mrs. Spears was a staunch advocate for disabled airline passenger rights and used her case against American Airlines to raise awareness on this important issue. As a disabled amputee, Mrs. Spears experienced unspeakable humiliation during an American Airlines flight that prompted her to take legal action in an effort to hold the airline accountable. She made numerous appearances on television and in print media to highlight the inhumane treatment she experienced firsthand with the hope that exposure to her plight would help the airline industry better understand the hardships of the disabled in traveling and to shift their paradigm and better train their crew to be more sensitive, compassionate, understanding and accommodating with disabled passengers in the future.

In June of 2020, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman had the honor of filing a lawsuit on Mrs. Spears's behalf against American Airlines alleging flight attendants and cabin crew members forced her to be pushed, dragged and crawl from her seat to the lavatory mid-flight because the airline failed to equip the plane with an aisle wheelchair.

"We have litigated cases against major airlines for more than four decades," said Diane Marger Moore, Mrs. Spears's attorney. "The indignity that Tammy suffered at the hands of American Airlines is unlike anything I have ever seen"

On Aug. 10, 2019, Mrs. Spears boarded an American Airlines flight from Salt Lake City, Utah to Charlotte, North Carolina. Two days before her scheduled travel, she had called the airline to ensure a wheelchair would be available for her, per the airline's policy.

Roughly an hour into a four-hour flight, Mrs. Spears told a flight attendant that she had to use the lavatory and asked for a wheelchair. The flight attendant advised her that there was no aisle chair onboard the aircraft and that she would have to "hold it" for the remainder of the flight. She attempted to comply but later informed the cabin crew that she required the use of the lavatory.

What happened next shocked and horrified her and her fellow passengers. Cabin crew members lifted, dropped, pushed, dragged, and injured Mrs. Spears in their efforts to get her out of her seat and into the forward lavatory, according to the complaint. The flight crew members urged her to hop on one leg, which she could not do. Finally, flight attendants directed Mrs. Spears to "scoot" on the floor, with some pushing and pulling from the crew members and a passenger.

Once Mrs. Spears made it to the lavatory, many of the passengers were focused on her plight. She was too exhausted to pull herself up to enter the lavatory, even with help. Mrs. Spears was too humiliated to resist American flight attendants disrobing her in view of flight attendants and several of the first-class passengers near the lavatory. Per the flight attendants' instructions, Mrs. Spears utilized the lavatory; the door was left open.

Her humiliation and pain would only continue as flight attendants came up with more ill-devised plans to get her back to her seat. After seeing her obvious pain and embarrassment, a first-class passenger offered to switch seats to save Mrs. Spears the indignity of being further dragged on the floor for a second time.

Mrs. Spears suffered injuries caused by this ordeal, including rug burns, strains and pain to her foot, leg, arm and other areas. She also required supplemental oxygen to bring down her blood pressure and breathing which were adversely affected by her strenuous struggle.

The lawsuit filed last year accused American Airlines of negligently failing to have an aisle wheelchair on Mrs. Spears' flight and failed to warn her that there would be no means for her to get to an onboard lavatory during the flight if the need arose. During the course of litigation, American Airlines admitted that Mrs. Spears had called prior to her flight and asked for wheelchair assistance and that the airline did not provide one.

Mrs. Spears hoped that through her lawsuit, American Airlines would change its behavior to ensure that other disabled passengers would not be forced to suffer similar indignity. She also hoped that other airlines would take note of the litigation and address any issues with the protocols for transporting passengers with disabilities.

Despite the shame that she was forced to live through, Tammy Spears bravely took it upon herself to relive her traumatic experience and tell her story to the media for the purpose of making air travel safer and more secure for people with disabilities. She is to be applauded for her efforts and will be sorely missed by those who knew her best.  

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Name: Robin McCall
Title: Media Relations Director
Group: Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman
Dateline: Los Angeles, CA United States
Direct Phone: 310-207-3233
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