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Family sues AA and Sky Chefs, claim in-flight meal lead to relative’s death

Plaintiffs retaliate against carrier and its caterer over contaminated meal

A Miami family is suing American Airlines (AA) and caterer Sky Chefs, claiming they served a contaminated meal that lead to the death of a relative.

Othon Cortes’ wife and daughter said that on a May 18 flight from Barcelona to New York, Cortes ate an in-flight meal that was contaminated with bacteria. While the family waited in New York’s JFK Airport for their connecting flight to Miami, Cortes  felt "discomfort and pain that included sharp stomach cramps and sudden thirst and other clear outward manifestation of severe physical illness," the suit said. During the flight to Miami, Cortes’ symptoms worsened. He eventually lost consciousness, and when the plane made an emergency landing in Norfolk, Va., he was pronounced dead.

The family is seeking more than $1 million in the suit against AA and Sky Chefs, a German company that produces airline meals for more than 300 airlines. The suit claims the companies failed “to properly maintain or prepare the food" and allowed it to become contaminated with Clostridium perfringens bacteria, which commonly causes foodborne illnesses.

While AA hasn’t commented on the pending litigation, Sky Chefs spokeswoman Josefine Corsten said, "Based upon the allegations in the complaint it is not possible that Sky Chefs is the responsible party because we did not cater the Barcelona flight in question." Sky Chefs has begun the process to dismiss the case.

This case is only one of many headaches for one of the nation’s largest airlines. Earlier this week, AA announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.


Cathleen Flahardy

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