Jury awards family $3.19 million in wrongful death lawsuit against Alaska Airlines

A King County jury ruled in a verdict against Alaska Airlines on Monday, after a three year legal battle.

The jury awarded a Spokane family $3.19 million after 75-year-old Bernice Kekona died following an escalator accident in the Portland airport. According to Luvera Law Firm, the jury found the airline 90% responsible for the incident.

Kekona’s daughter, Darlene Bloyed, says when they got the verdict for the wrongful death lawsuit, she broke down in tears – saying now her mom can rest in peace.

“We got justice for my mom,” said Bloyed, emotional.

KIRO7 covered the case when the lawsuit was first filed back in 2017. Now it’s the first night in more than three years that Bloyed does not have the weight of a legal battle on her shoulders.

“Sleepless nights, no closure,” Bloyed said.

In a horrifying incident captured in on surveillance video, you see Kekona falling down an escalator in her electric wheelchair – leading to serious injuries.

Kekona was flying from Maui to Spokane. Her family said it’s a trip she regularly made, and as usual, the family requested gate-to-gate escort services.

But during a layover in Portland, attorneys for Kekona’s family said they discovered an Alaska Airlines gate agent failed to tell contractor attendants that Kekona needed to be escorted to her next gate.

Bernice tried to go herself but got confused.

Surveillance video shows her wandering through the airport in her wheelchair.

Then you see her at the top of an escalator. She later said she thought it was an elevator – went forward – and fell down 21 steps.

Complications from her injuries led to septic infection. She went through a surgery and her right foot was amputated, but the infection spread.

Three months later, Kekona died.

“I just miss talking with her, I miss her cooking, I miss her going to church with me. We just did things together,” Bloyed said. “She was our somebody.”

Alaska Airlines claimed throughout the trial that Kekona’s family should not have allowed her to travel by herself.

Attorneys for Kekona’s family say that’s a right protected by law.

“The Air Carrier Access Act allows that,” said attorney Robert Gellatly. “And Alaska spent so much time, instead of just accepting accountability, blaming the family. To me that was really not acceptable,” he said.

According to Gellatly, none of the 12 jury members allocated fault on the family’s part.

“We didn’t just send her out there. We did what we were supposed to do to ensure my mom’s safety to get her to us home. And Alaska didn’t deliver. They just didn’t follow through on their own protocols,” Bloyed said.

She says now their family can focus on the happy memories.

“I told her we got justice. That we won, that we did good. And that she can rest in peace and rest in love now,” Bloyed said.

In response to KIRO7′s request, Alaska Airlines sent this statement, saying:

“We’re disappointed in the ruling and are evaluating next steps. There is no more important responsibility than the safety and wellbeing of our guests, whether they’re in our care or the care of a vendor.”