Disabled Cancer Patient Sues TSA for Physical and Emotional Injury
TSA guards violently arrested a disabled teenage cancer patient during a security screening at Memphis International Airport, the girl’s family has alleged in a lawsuit.
At the time of her arrest in late June 2015, Hannah Cohen, 18, and her mother were on their way home from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, where Hannah underwent her final treatment for a brain tumor. The tumor left her blind in one eye, deaf in one ear and partially paralyzed, and numerous surgeries and treatments she has undergone since age 2 left her easily confused and frightened in unfamiliar situations.
But Cohen and her mother, Shirley, had made the trip hundreds of times and knew the airport’s security routine well, they told The Guardian. An alarm was triggered when Hannah passed through the scanners, possibly because of sequins on her shirt, according to the lawsuit.
The Guardian reports:
Agents told Hannah they needed to take her to a “sterile area” where they could search her further. She was afraid, Shirley said, and offered to take off the sequined shirt as she was wearing another underneath, but a female agent laughed at her.
Seeing the scene begin to unfold Shirley hobbled to a supervisor standing nearby. “She is a St Jude’s patient, and she can get confused,” she said. “Please be gentle. If I could just help her it will make things easier.”
But soon, a voice on the public address system requested more agents to report to the checkpoint, Shirley said. “That’s when the armed guards came”. …
“I tried. To push away,” she said. “I tried to get away.”
The guards slammed Hannah to the ground, her mother said, smashing her face into the floor, which the complaint alleges left her “physically and emotionally” injured.
Shirley had just picked up her phone from the conveyor belt, and snapped a photo of Hannah on the floor: handcuffed, weeping and bleeding.
“Another guard pushed me back 20 feet, in my boot, and told me I couldn’t be nearby,” said Shirley, a professor of nursing at a university in Chattanooga.
“I felt so helpless. I sat down on a bench facing away so I couldn’t see what they were doing to my daughter.”
The lawsuit alleges that the TSA did not give Hannah adequate accommodation to screen her, and discriminated against her because of her disability. It names the TSA and the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority and seeks damages that include medical expenses, and personal injury both physical and emotional. It calls for a “reasonable sum not exceeding $100,000 and costs”, and an undisclosed punitive amount.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.