A disabled teenager who was returning home after treatment for a brain tumour, was left bloodied and traumatised by airport security staff, a lawsuit launched by her family alleges.
Hannah Cohen, who is partially deaf, paralysed and blind in one eye, was flying to Chattanooga from Memphis where she had been receiving care in June 2015, when a security alarm went off at an airport checkpoint.
Hannah, who was 18 at the time, became disorientated and confused by the alarm and the security staff’s attempts to search her, the lawsuit claims.
Her mother, Shirley Cohen, said she tried to tell TSA agents about her daughter's disability, but she was kept away by police.
"She's trying to get away from them but in the next instant, one of them had her down on the ground and hit her head on the floor. There was blood everywhere," Shirley told WREG-TV.
"The security personnel failed to recognise that she was confused because of her obvious disability and was unable to cooperate with the search," Cohen's lawyers, Kelly Pearson and William Hardwick, wrote in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges the security personnel assaulted Hannah at the checkpoint, "causing her physical and emotional injury as well as emotional injury" to her mother.
Hannah was arrested, but the charges were later dropped.
The family filed a federal lawsuit against the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority and the TSA for damages that include pain, medical expenses, personal and emotional injury, and embarrassment.
The lawsuit alleges that the TSA and airport police discriminated against Cohen because of her disability and failed to provide reasonable accommodation for screening her. The suit asks for a "reasonable sum not exceeding $100,000 and costs."
Shirley told the Guardian: "These people think they are God. They think they can do anything they want.
"Well, in this country we have the Americans with Disabilities Act. And if they will do this to a disabled girl, does that mean they'll do it to an 80-year-old grandmother? It's time for justice."
TSA spokesman Mark Howell and Jerry Brandon, chief of public safety of the Memphis International Airport Police Department, said they could not comment on pending litigation.
"Anybody can file anything, and we don't comment on active litigation," Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority president and CEO Scott Brockman told The Commercial Appeal newspaper.
"Clearly there are additional facts in this matter, and we won't comment until we address the litigation."
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