West Virginia Record

Monday, February 17, 2020

United Airlines is accused of failing to divert international flight to provide man who died with emergency medical care


By Kyla Asbury | Aug 9, 2019


ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The family of a former Charleston resident who died on a United Airlines flight is suing the airline for allegedly denying him reasonable care.

Zachary R. Steenstra was aboard a United Airlines flight from Washington, D.C. to Tokyo, Japan on Dec. 3, 2017, when he ate a meal on the flight and began to vomit, experience great pain and then began to vomit blood, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The plaintiffs, Michael S. Davis, the administrator of Zachary Steenstra's estate, and Norman Steenstra Jr. and Sharon Roon, his parents, claim Zachary Steenstra begged United Airlines to divert the flight and land at the nearest available airport so he could receive immediate emergency medical treatment, but the airline refused. The flight continued its more than 13-hour flight and Zachary Steenstra continued to vomit blood and grow weaker and, by the time the flight landed, he was removed from the plane on a stretcher and taken to a hospital that did not have adequate facilities and transferred him to a trauma hospital, according to the suit.

"Due to the delays in medical treatment caused by United's refusal to land to permit Zachary to receive medical care, sepsis occurred and his condition rapidly deteriorated," the complaint states. "With every hour that passes before sepsis is treated, the risk of death increases by approximately 7.6 (percent) per hour."

The plaintiffs claim despite the Tokyo doctors and hospital fighting to save his life, Zachary Steenstra died.

The airline was aware of Zachary Steenstra's life-threatening situation and knew or should have known that failing to divert and land could lead to further deterioration and death, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim United is liable for the injuries and damages Zachary Steenstra suffered.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are represented by Susan Burke and Mary Schiavo of Motley Rice and John Tinney Jr. of Hendrickson & Long.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia case number 1:19-cv-00876

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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

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