The parents of an American Airlines worker killed when his baggage-hauling vehicle rolled over on the tarmac at Charlotte Douglas International Airport has filed a wrongful death complaint, highlighting the safety hazards faced by tens of thousands of U.S. tarmac workers.
Twenty-four-year-old Kendrick Hudson died on Aug. 2, 2019, when he was driving a luggage tug and swerved to avoid a piece of luggage that was lying on the tarmac. The vehicle rolled over, crushing Mr. Hudson’s abdomen, pelvis, and legs under the weight of the vehicle, the lawsuit alleges.
His parents, Erika Vernon and Leon Hudson, claim that the tarmac was “so dark in that area that he could not see the dropped piece of luggage in front of him until he was almost on it – too late for him to safely avoid it,” according to the Dallas Morning News.
“American Airlines knew of the inadequate lighting, and the danger it presents to all those working in the area, yet they chose to stick their head in the sand, as Mr. Hudson and other personnel continued to work in dangerous conditions,” a lawyer for Mr. Hudson’s family claimed.
The family also named the city of Charlotte, which operates the airport, in the lawsuit.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Piedmont workers say they had raised concerns about the lighting problems on the tarmac months before Mr. Hudson’s fatal accident. Union Vice President Donielle Prophete said the ramp near Concourse E was so dark that agents called it “death valley,” according to the Observer.
The North Carolina Department of Labor investigated the accident and on Wednesday, Jan. 29, fined American Airlines subsidiary Piedmont Airlines $19,600 for three safety violations.
State regulators found that not all workers were wearing seat belts during inspections; the airline was not evaluating tug operators; and the tugs were not inspected after each shift, the Charlotte Observer reported. They recommended that the airlines perform a lighting study in the “especially dark” areas where the accident occurred, outside of Concourse E.
On Jan. 30, Charlotte Douglas International Airport announced plans to upgrade light fixtures on its tarmac.
According to the Dallas Morning News, at least 15 workers were killed on the job working for commercial airlines on U.S. tarmacs since 2010. Last year appears to have been an especially deadly year for tarmac workers. In 2019, five tarmac workers were killed on the job.
Earlier in January a congressional aviation subcommittee held a hearing to assess the safety of tarmac workers, who work in “tough outdoor conditions, sometimes drive tugs without seatbelts and repetitively lift heavy bags,” the Dallas Morning News reported.
Employees should be assured they will be safe while on the job. However, oftentimes employers are lax in following safety regulations. Simple safety precautions that are overlooked, or defective equipment or machinery may subject workers to serious on-the-job injuries or even lead to their deaths. To discuss a potential claim, contact Kendall Dunson or Evan Allen in our Personal Injury & Products Liability section.