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  • Airline Hit With A Heavy Lawsuit
    Scripps Howard - Philadelphia Daily News - 5/07/98

    DENVER -- A Continental Airlines passenger who said he endured a two-hour flight with his elbow pinned to an armrest by an obese passenger seated next to him is suing the airline.

    Michael Townes wants Continental to pay for the surgery that reattached a tendon in his elbow. He said he may also ask for punitive damages "so they don't let that happen again."

    The Denver man sued last month, alleging negligence and breach of contract for changing his seat assignment.

    Continental spokeswoman Sarah Anthony said the airline does not comment on pending litigation.

    Townes said that when he boarded a flight to Houston on March 26, 1996, someone else was in his assigned seat. He said he was directed, instead, to a seat next to an obese man who occupied not only his own seat but half of Townes' seat.

    "This was a huge human being," he said.

    Townes said he was pressed against the passenger for the duration of the flight. When he arrived in Houston, he said, his elbow was tingling and he was wet from the man's perspiration.

    "It was a real gross situation," Townes said.

    Townes said he learned that the passenger in his assigned seat had originally been seated next to the obese man. "Without asking me, they just gave my seat up," he said.

    Townes said he asked Continental to provide a temporary employee to assist with his computer work while the tendinitis in his elbow healed. Continental refused, he said.

    The elbow now is fine, thanks to the surgery about four months ago, Townes said.

    Townes said he understands that airlines can't discriminate against overweight people by requiring them to buy more than one seat. But they should find a better way to accommodate those passengers, he said.

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