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
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
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
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
"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.