Bernice Kekona used to be a bus driver. Born and raised in Kahakuloa, she moved to Spokane Valley, Washington to live with her daughter and get better health care after her leg was amputated and replaced with a prosthetic in 2012. She flew home to Maui every chance she had. On one of these flights, the 75-year-old was left alone in the Portland airport where she fell down an escalator and suffered injuries that would later result in her death.
If your family has experienced a wrongful death, reach out to the Honolulu wrongful death attorneys at Kurzban, Kurzban, Tetzeli, and Pratt, P.A.
During Bernice’s 2017 flight, she and her family asked and was scheduled to receive gate-to-gate assistance at the Portland airport. She was transferred from her seat on the plane to her wheelchair and left at the Alaska Airlines’ gate. Instead of providing gate-to-gate assistance, employees issued directions and let her navigate the airport alone.
Somewhere along the way, she became disoriented and mistakenly rolled onto an escalator, tumbling down 21 steps. Entangled in her wheelchair, it landed on top of her with enough force to leave escalator marks on her face.
She suffered head and chest trauma and injured her Achilles tendon which developed a septic infection. After enduring three painful months of an unsuccessful recovery, her leg was amputated. The infection persisted, and the day after her surgery, she died.
Her medical bills totaled almost $300,000. But more than that, she left behind eight children, 24 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
Litigation stretched out over three years after the Kekona family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, finally ending earlier this year. The trial lasted for two weeks and was conducted over Zoom.
Alaska Airlines insisted Bernice declined gate-to-gate service and claimed her family failed to follow the protocols for requesting assistance while booking the flight.
Evidence showed family members both signed up for the service and called multiple times to ensure the service, including the day of her flight. Airport personnel, including wheelchair attendants, testified they were never informed by Alaska Airlines about additional assistance for Bernice.
According to King County Superior Court documents, a 12-member jury in Seattle, Washington ruled Alaska Airlines to pay nearly $1.8 million in economic and noneconomic damages for Bernice and $225,000 to each of her eight children.
The jury found Alaska Airlines to be 90% to blame and Bernice 10% to blame for the incident.
Death is inevitable, but when a loved one is lost due to someone’s neglectful or wrongful actions, the grief is magnified. If your family suffers from this sort of grief, you have the right to pursue damages against the people to blame for the loss of your loved one.
The Hawaii wrongful death attorneys at Kurzban, Kurzban, Tetzeli, and Pratt, P.A. are here for you. We can put our skills and experience to work, making sure you get fair treatment, and receive the compensation you need in this challenging time.