Alaska Airlines ordered to pay Spokane family for mother’s death from escalator injury

SEATTLE, Wash. — In a case delayed by COVID-19, a jury Monday ruled in favor of a Spokane family and ordered Alaska Airlines to pay nearly $3.2 million for their mother’s wrongful death.

75-year old Bernice Kekona was traveling to Hawaii to visit family. Because of her age and physical condition, her family arranged for her to have an Alaska Airlines escort from gate to gate. They did not provide one and Kekona became disoriented. On video from Portland International Airport, you can see Kekona in her wheelchair falling down 21 steps of a moving escalator.

Kekona suffered serious injuries in the fall, including a leg wound that never properly healed and ultimately led to her death.

“Bernice Kekona was the victim of a tragic failure by Alaska to provide basic services between their flights,” said Robert Gellatly, who represented Kekona’s family. “Alaska failed Bernice miserably, and the company has continued to wield the legal system like a weapon to blame Bernice, evade responsibility, and undermine her grieving family in the most hurtful ways.”

PAST COVERAGE: Spokane family sues Alaska Airlines for mothers escalator fall 

Kekona’s family sued Alaska Airlines under the Air Carrier Access Act. After delays due to the pandemic, the trial was finally held completely over Zoom.

According to the Luvera Law Firm, Alaska Airlines moved to dismiss the case early on, which was rejected by the court. During the proceedings, they argued that Kekona was responsible for what happened to her, while her family argued that the employees ignored their arrangements and safety protocols, allowing her to wander off alone.

The jury came back with its verdict Monday afternoon, finding Alaska Airlines responsible for her wrongful death.

“For the past four years, this grieving family has asked Alaska for transparency and accountability to ensure this wouldn’t happen to another vulnerable passenger,” Gellatly said. “We admire this family’s bravery in continuing to fight in Mrs. Kekona’s memory, and we thank the jury for their time and thoughtfulness in holding Alaska responsible for passenger safety.”

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