A Southwest Airlines flight attendant has filed an unlawful death lawsuit against the airline alleging lax COVID logs during mandatory training last summer and lack of contact tracing after a female participant tested positive for her husband’s death from the virus have led.
Carol Madden, a 69-year-old Baltimore flight attendant who joined Southwest in 2016, is filing more than $ 3 million in damages for Maryland airline’s negligence.
She and her husband Bill, a veteran and retired railroad signaling engineer who drove them home from the one-day training course at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in July, fell ill after the training session and eventually tested positive for COVID-19. Bill’s oxygen levels dropped and his health deteriorated so quickly that he couldn’t take his own temperature. He died a few weeks later in a York, Pennsylvania hospital, with COVID pneumonia listed as the top killer. He was 73 years old.
Madden, a cancer survivor who stayed on the job the entire time pandemic, said USA TODAY that it “firmly believes my husband would still be here” if Southwest had followed the same strict security protocols for employees as it did for passengers. It even coined a term for the latter, that Southwestern promise.
“They cleaned the seats. They cleaned the vents. They cleaned the seat belts. Every point of contact was cleaned,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. “They didn’t do that in my training last year.”
“I love my airline, but they didn’t love me back.”
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Southwest Airlines filed a motion to dismiss the case on Friday. On the file, the airline expressed its condolences to Madden and others who have lost family members to COVID-19, but said it was “out of place” to blame the airline for his death.
The airline said it was necessary to provide employees with a “reasonably safe working environment” but responsibility for “due diligence” does not extend to spouses or anyone else in the household, even if disease is transmitted at work. The company also said there is no way of knowing exactly where or when she caught the coronavirus that is causing COVID-19.
“The allegations made in the complaint reflect an understandably emotional response to devastating personal loss, but are not legally enforceable,” the airline said.
Madden’s attorney, Dan Mastromarco of The Mastromarco Firm, said he was preparing a legal response.
From dream job to heartbreak
Madden became a flight attendant in the Southwest at the age of 64 after several other careers including real estate and legal services.
“I’ve worn seven hats in my life,” she said. “That was my dream.”
The native New Yorker said she could pursue her dream because her husband is retired and takes care of everything at home, taking her to and from the airport. The couple met when she was 12 and he was 17 and married for 35 years.
“He was a phenomenal man. He had a heart of gold,” she said. “There is nothing and nobody who can replace him.”
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Training of flight attendants in the southwest: masks, but few other COVID protective measures, according to a lawsuit
The Federal Aviation Administration requires recurring training for flight attendants, and Madden said it was originally enrolled for April 2020. Due to the outbreak of the pandemic, it was postponed to mid-July.
Flight attendants and flight instructors from the Southwest were not screened for COVID symptoms before or during the one-day training session or asked about COVID exposure according to the lawsuit.
Masks were required but hand sanitizer was not supplied and equipment from fire extinguishers to megaphones was not sanitized between uses, the lawsuit said.
The human-sized doll used for self-defense training was not wiped off despite the flight attendants’ “extensive physical contact”. The dummy’s name: Bob.
“Southwest was unable to disinfect Bob or any other equipment used during this skills training,” the lawsuit said.
Social distancing is sparse, Madden said.
“We sat at two-meter-high tables and folded tables with legs,” she said. “You’re not six feet apart. You are maybe four feet or less.”
All of them have reduced the chance of COVID transmission, according to the lawsuit.
In a statement, Southwest Airlines spokesman Brad Hawkins expressed the airline’s condolences to Madden, saying the well-being of Southwest employees and customers has been the “uncompromising priority” since the pandemic began.
“Southwest has stepped up operations to clean and maintain our aircraft, airports and work centers, and is following all notification policies under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Hawkins said in a statement. “In addition, the Southwest team works every day to ensure that our multi-faceted approach to supporting the safety of our employees and customers is updated with research and public health recommendations. Southwest will continue its dedicated efforts to benefit our people and communities as we work together to slow the spread of COVID-19 during the ongoing pandemic. ”
American Airlines temporarily suspended flight attendant training last fall Several instructors tested positive for COVID.
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Delayed contact tracing: “I found out on Facebook”
Madden said she felt sick a few days after training on July 13th. She initially thought it was a sinus infection, but antibiotics didn’t work. And then her husband felt sick. The district’s health authorities asked them to be tested and quarantined.
On July 23, Madden said she called Southwest to tell them that she and her husband had symptoms of COVID and that she would not be able to take an upcoming trip. She and her husband received COVID tests that day, but the results were not expected for at least a few days due to a residue.
“They told me they wouldn’t pay me or they wouldn’t take away (attendance) points until I proved I had COVID,” she said.
What the airline and its union didn’t tell her, she said: A few days after her return, someone in her training group had tested positive for COVID, a few days before Madden reported her symptoms to both parties, and long before her husband became seriously ill.
Madden found out about the case the next day from a flight attendant group on Facebook and was furious.
“I was devastated to find out the woman who was sitting at the table with me had COVID,” she said.
The lawsuit says Madden could have isolated herself from her husband early if Southwest immediately notified her of an employee’s positive test.
The Southwest Network Operations Center did not inform her of the positive case until July 27, 10 days after the employee’s positive result and 14 days after training.
She remembers the call like this: “Oh, you were exposed to COVID-19 in class, but you can go ahead and your quarantine is over and you can go back.”
It didn’t matter, she said, that she told the manager she and her husband were still suffering from symptoms of COVID.
“They didn’t care about us,” she said. “We were expendable.”
Madden has taken time off after the death of her husband, but is flying back to the southwest.
“I had to put my grief, my loneliness,” she said, “I had to put that under my uniform.”