A Florida woman claiming she was wrongfully kicked off of a Southwest Airlines flight to Palm Beach for removing her mask to drink water has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the company.
Medora Clai Reading said the incident followed a heated exchange with a flight attendant after the woman boarded a flight from Washington, D.C. on January 7, 2021. Kristina Heuser, the plaintiff’s New York-based attorney, filed the suit in Brooklyn federal court on January 18, alleging the airline violated the passenger’s civil rights and the Air Carrier Access Act because the 68-year-old needed the water to soothe symptoms of multiple medical issues.
“We don’t care,” a flight attendant allegedly told Reading when the plaintiff offered to show her medical exemption, according to court documents. The suit claims the attendant took a harsh tone while telling the woman, “You may take a sip of water, then you are to put your mask back in place. Then you may take another sip of water, and you put your mask back in place.”
Besides the airline, the suit also names as defendants two unnamed flight attendants involved and the unidentified pilot, who Reading alleged “laughed mockingly” as she was escorted off the plane in tears.
Southwest had no immediate comment, having yet to review the complaint.
Heuser told Reuters that a “planeload full of witnesses” saw the encounter, and Southwest’s “hostile and abusive” conduct reflected a “COVID insanity” that should not override federal laws protecting people with medical disabilities.