Wrongful death suit filed for passenger denied urgent medical care on United Airlines flight

Motley Rice LLC, one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ litigation firms, with co-counsel Hendrickson & Long PLLC, has filed a suit on behalf of Zachary R. Steenstra and his family after his tragic and seemingly preventable death due to denied care during a medical emergency aboard United Flight 803 on Dec. 3, 2017. Steenstra was a young and healthy athlete with a loving family and promising career. At the age of 37, he was a highly valued contractor for the Department of Justice and served his country working in embassies around the world.

While en route from Washington Dulles Airport to Narita Airport near Tokyo, Japan, Steenstra grew ill three hours into the flight, experiencing severe pain and later vomiting blood. Steenstra repeatedly requested that the flight be diverted the nearest available airport so that he could receive immediate medical treatment, but the airline refused, the suit alleges, forcing Steenstra to endure the full 13-hour flight without medical care. At the time of landing in Tokyo, Steenstra was so weak from blood loss that he could not walk or crawl and had to be a removed from the plane on a gurney.

Once at a trauma hospital, medical staff determined that Steenstra’s esophagus had ruptured and/or separated from his stomach. Steenstra developed sepsis due to delays in medical treatment, causing his condition to rapidly deteriorate and ultimately claim his life.

“Zachary was forced to suffer for at least ten hours on a flight while in extreme pain,” said John H. Tinney, Jr., of Hendrickson & Long. “He was denied any form of medical care or evaluation and his obvious critical symptoms were ignored, despite him pleading for his life. Hundreds of suitable airports for a landing were available on the flight path, a stop that could have saved his life.”

“United Airlines, and all airlines, have a duty, by and through their agents and employees, to exercise the highest degree of care in the operation of the flight and to safeguard and care for the safety, health and life of their passengers,” said Mary Schiavo, Motley Rice aviation attorney and CNN Transportation and Aviation analyst.

Alleging negligence and wrongful death, litigation filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia seeks to hold United Airlines accountable for its alleged failure to act to allow for the highest degree of care and to safeguard the health and life of its passengers. Plaintiffs allege Steenstra’s death is a direct and proximate result of United’s breach of duty, gross negligence, willful misconduct, and ultimately the failure and refusal to provide any reasonable medical care.

“His life could have been saved with less than a one hour delay. It will haunt me for the rest of my life to imagine the lack of empathy he endured and the blatant disregard for his life and well-being,” said his mother Sharon Roon. “I am heartbroken and will never recover from the loss of my kind, thoughtful and brilliant son Zachary.”

Led by attorney Mary Schiavo, a CNN transportation analyst and former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Motley Rice aviation attorneys have extensive experience investigating passenger rights violations, in addition to representing families and victims in plane disasters involving international airlines. Motley Rice is co-counsel on this case with John H. Tinney, Jr. of Hendrickson & Long PLLC in Charleston, WV.

The case is Zachary R. Steenstra, Deceased, by Michael S. Davis, as Administrator for the Estate and Norman Steenstra, Jr., and Sharon Roon, Parents of Zachary R. Steenstra, Indvidually, vs. United Airlines, Inc., a Delaware Corporation; Case Number: 1:19-cv-00876-TSE-MSN, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Read the full complaint.

About Motley Rice LLC

Motley Rice is one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ litigation firms. With a tradition of representing those whose rights have been violated, Motley Rice attorneys gained recognition for their pioneering asbestos lawsuits, their work with the State Attorneys General in the landmark litigation against Big Tobacco, and their representation of 9/11 families in the ongoing lawsuit against terrorist financiers. The firm continues to handle complex litigation in numerous areas, including securities fraud; antitrust; consumer protection; mesothelioma; environmental contamination; prescription and over-the-counter drugs; other medical devices; human rights; aviation disasters; and wrongful death. Motley Rice is headquartered in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., and has additional offices in Connecticut; Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; New York; Pennsylvania; Missouri; Rhode Island; and West Virginia. For more information, contact Motley Rice attorney Mary Schiavo (DC, FL, MD, MO, SC) at 1.800.768.4026 or visit www.motleyrice.com. Motley Rice LLC, a South Carolina Limited Liability Company, is engaged in the New Jersey practice of law through Motley Rice New Jersey LLC. Esther Berezofsky is the attorney responsible for New Jersey practice. Connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

About Hendrickson & Long PLLC

Hendrickson & Long PLLC is a general litigation firm, formed in July 1994 by David K. Hendrickson and R. Scott Long. The firm is counsel for individuals, local West Virginia companies, national and international companies. Hendrickson & Long has experience in complex case management, the innovative use of technology, the coordination of multi-jurisdictional discovery efforts and document work, handling class-action litigation and the trial of consolidated cases. Its attorneys have served as national counsel to Fortune 100 companies in industry-wide litigation. They also serve a broad range of clients, large and small, on a national, regional and local basis. The firm routinely litigate in state and federal trial and appellate courts in West Virginia and across the region.