United seeks to move damaged wheelchair case to federal court

By Sandra Lane | May 27, 2018

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ST. LOUIS – United Airlines seeks to move to federal court a lawsuit accusing the airliner of damaging an expensive wheelchair.

Authority for removal of the case to a higher court focused on the fact that plaintiffs maintain that damages sought exceed $75,000. In addition, since plaintiffs are citizens of  Missouri, and United Airlines is incorporated in Delaware and Illinois, complete diversity exists among the parties, according to federal law. These are two requirements for moving a case to a higher court. Complete diversity of citizenship exists where no defendant holds citizenship in the same state where any plaintiff holds citizenship.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Russel and Stacey Schmidt, who filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri, on March 14.

The lawsuit concerned alleged damage to an electric wheelchair belonging to plaintiffs’ disabled minor daughter caused during two United Airlines flights. As stated in the pleading, “Plaintiffs allege that the damage to the wheelchair and their interactions with United Airlines caused emotional distress to plaintiffs.”

Plaintiffs accused United Airlines of “negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent inducement, fraud and violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.”

The Schmidt’s petition alleges that, “Plaintiffs suffered significant damages, and plaintiffs plead damages well in excess of the $75,000 amount in controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction.”

Further, plaintiffs allege, “The acts and omissions of United were outrageous and evidence a complete indifference to and conscious disregard for disabled passengers like plaintiffs’ minor child. Punitive damages in the amount of at least $10 million are appropriate against United to punish United and to deter United and others from similar conduct in the future.”  

Plaintiffs allege that their minor daughter’s rights as a disabled passenger were violated by United Airlines. The Schmidt's allegations of damage to the wheelchair, emotional and mental distress, and $10 million in punitive damages establish that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, exclusive of interests and costs. 

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Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division

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