·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

Alaska Airlines to Pay $3.2M to Settle Wrongful Death Lawsuit

— March 2, 2021

A jury recently ruled in favor of a family who sued Alaska Airlines after their family member fell down an escalator and died from her injuries.

Back in June 2017, a woman fell down a Portland International Airport escalator and died four months later from her injuries. As a result, the woman’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and a jury just returned a verdict against Alaska Airlines for $3,189,672. The original lawsuit was filed in December 2017 alleging neglect. Before the jury verdict, the airline tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, but a U.S. District Judge ruled against the motion.

Close up photo of person’s feet as they sit in a wheelchair; image by Stevepb, via
Close up photo of person’s feet as they sit in a wheelchair; image by Stevepb, via

The woman was Bernice Kekona, a Spokane, Washington native. In June 2017, the 75-year-old was “traveling from Hawaii to Spokane with a transfer of planes in Portland.” Kekona was “disabled with an amputated leg and other health issues,” so she was in a wheelchair at the time of the accident. When she and her family were at the Portland airport, she was trying to “get to the gate to her connecting flight and fell down an escalator.” During the fall, she sustained serious injuries that led to her death.

According to the lawsuit, Kekona’s family “had requested gate-to-gate service for their mother, who needed wheelchair assistance.” While gate agents “met Kekona as she deplaned in Portland and provided her a wheelchair ride to the top of the sky bridge…she was then left alone and became confused, leading her to tumble in her wheelchair down an escalator,” the suit stated. Surveillance video captured the entire incident.

After the incident, Kekona was helped by emergency workers and rushed to a Portland hospital for treatment. Later, in September 2017, “she entered a Spokane hospital for care of a leg wound that her lawyers contend was caused by the initial Portland airport fall.” Two weeks later, she passed away.

When commenting on the tragic incident, Darlene Bloyed said “her mother would still be here if gate agents did their job.” She added that she had “called Alaska Airlines several times to make sure her mother was going to get the help that she needed.” She said:

“She would have been here today if they did their job. I requested five times for this service and there was a communication breakdown.”

When commenting on the recent verdict, Bloyed added that she’s glad her family can have closure because the last few years have been hard on her and her family.

Under federal law, airlines are required to assist disabled passengers in transit. When asked about the incident with Kekona, Alaska Airlines confirmed that “Kekona received initial assistance but said she declined additional aid while navigating through the Portland airport.”


Jury returns $3.2 million verdict against Alaska Airlines in wrongful death lawsuit

Alaska Airlines settles wrongful death lawsuit

Join the conversation!