Airlines Settle in Obese Woman Lawsuit

C ourt documents show that the husband of an obese woman who died after trying to return to the United States quietly settled a lawsuit with three airlines back in August, according to this article written by Dareh Gregorian of the New York Daily News.

The lawsuit — which sought 5.7 million in damages and compensation — was initiated by Janos Soltesz, who is 57 years old and the widower of Vilma Soltesz, who weighed 425 pounds, had only one leg and used a wheelchair.

Vilma Soltesz — who was 56 years old and lived in the Bronx with her husband — died this past October from kidney failure after allegedly being denied boarding an aircraft at the airports in Budapest, Prague and Frankfurt while attempting to return to her home in New York.

Vilma apparently gained weight while at the couple’s vacation home in the Hungary countryside due to a combination of kidney disease and diabetes, causing her to retain a significant amount of water over the course of a month — which supposedly explained why the couple was able to fly as passengers to Hungary but not be able to return to New York.

Although the couple purchased two seats for her for the flight home, she was reportedly informed by a representative of KLM that a seat belt extender was not available for her and that the backs of two of the seats in the row in which they sat were supposedly broken. A spokeswoman for KLM had claimed that she was unable to even board the aircraft despite all possible efforts, rendering a seat belt extender useless.

The couple refused to have Vilma treated in their native Hungary because they did not trust the medical personnel there. Her extensive medical history was better known to the medical professionals in New York to whom she was a patient. They drove as far as Prague and Frankfurt to attempt to board aircraft for flights to New York, but with no success.

The three airlines named in the lawsuit — Delta Air Lines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Lufthansa — all reportedly quietly settled with Soltesz. The terms of the settlement had not been disclosed; and I had not found evidence of the settlement at this time at the official Internet website of Ronai & Ronai, LLP — the law firm which represented Soltesz.

Does this settlement change any aspect of the ongoing debate pertaining to airline passengers who are obese? How could a similar situation to the one experienced by Vilma Soltesz be prevented in the future?

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