Tulsa woman sues Continental airlines for $45 Mil.

Tuesday, September 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA-- A $4 million wrongful death lawsuit plus a $45 million punitive damage lawsuit has been filed in Oklahoma and Texas courts against Continental Airlines, Inc.

The action was taken today by Holden, Glendening and McKenna on behalf of Mary McCaskey, the widow of Ralph McCaskey, who suffered a severe stroke on a Continental flight bound for Newark, N.J.

Steve Holden, a principal with the law firm, said the plane, which was approximately 20 minutes outside of Houston, could have landed at any number of airports, but did not. Neither the pilots nor Gordon Bethune, Continental chairman and CEO who was on the plane and who has been named in the suit, offered any assistance.

"Had Mr. McCaskey been given the drug tissue plasminogen activator or any other clot-bursting agent within three hours of his stroke, he might well be with us today. Any major hospital is equipped with this common medication," Holden said.

According to the suit, at the onset of the stroke, Ralph McCaskey, 70, experienced immediate paralysis to his esophageal muscles and began to choke. His wife and a male flight attendant tried to clear his airway. Oxygen was given, but despite Mary McCaskey's pleas and her husband's failing condition, the plane continued on course. Ralph McCaskey died two weeks later following hospitalization at Elizabeth General Hospital in Newark.

Holden said a nurse who was a passenger on the plane did talk by phone to a physician on the ground who apparently indicated that it would be all right for the flight to continue. The suit also lists the physician and the plane's pilot as defendants.

"Continental's indifference toward its own customers is appalling," Holden said. "At a time when they could have literally saved a man's life, they refused to take responsible action. Alone and seven miles above the earth, Mary McCaskey was held prisoner and forced to watch her husband suffer knowing that landing the plane was his only chance of survival."