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Lawsuit: AA Passenger Needed RX From His Carry-on, but Ended up in Handcuffs Instead

The widow of an American Airlines passenger is suing the carrier after a dispute over medication led to her late husband’s arrest for supposedly making a bomb threat and his eventual acquittal. Now, she says the company has also attempted to sabotage her ability to get to court by canceling itineraries and ignoring court orders.

According to a lawsuit filed in a Philadelphia court, Richard Cardarelli readily agreed to check his carry-on bag at the gate before an American Eagle flight operated by Air Wisconsin departed from Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) when it became clear that the storage space in the plane’s cabin was full. Unfortunately, soon after handing his bag over to ramp agents he realized that he had left critical medication in his suitcase. Cardarelli was able to retrieve his medicine after pleading his case to a gate agent, but what happened next led to months of courtroom wrangling that continued even after his death earlier this year.

According to court documents, the ailing passenger, who was recovering from cornea transplant surgery, thought that once he had convinced the airline employee to allow him to retrieve his eye drops, everything was fine. He was surprised nearly a half hour later to find police boarding the aircraft and placing him under arrest after a baggage handler who had initially refused him access to his bag reported that he had made a bomb threat when speaking with her earlier.

A judge in Philadelphia later acquitted Cardarelli of all charges in absentia. The court found the baggage handler’s account of the supposed incident less-than-credible, in part, because the alleged bomb threat was not reported to anyone at all for nearly 15 minutes – until well after her decision not to allow him access to his medication had been overruled by a superior.

“She lied through her teeth,” Cardarelli’s widow Debbie Cardarelli told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s so ridiculous what I’m going through just because someone lied.”

Debbie Cardarelli told the newspaper that in addition to causing her late husband to be arrested on terrorism charges and struggle with serious depression through the final days of his life, American Airlines has also unethically attempted to sabotage her late husband’s criminal trial and subsequent lawsuit against the legacy carrier. She says that even after promising not to interfere with travel plans, the airline refused to allow the couple to board flights to court hearings. Cardarelli says the airline has also repeatedly ignored court orders and refused to respond to subpoenas.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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7 Comments
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BeantownDisneyFan August 19, 2018

The American Eagle carriers get what they pay for, the worst of the worst employees (dumb as rocks). How much do you want to bet that the Baggage Handler was an African American woman, looking to throw a white man under the bus?

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bostontraveler August 18, 2018

Based on my experiences and observations, I would err on the side of the passenger. The sad reality these days in the US is that under the guise of "terrorism" (whatever that means) any airport or airline employee can claim whatever and majorly mess you up. I had an incident on UA from Buenos Aires to Newark in Business class where the crass and infantile crew were screaming fighting in the galley...leaving their carts for over an hour unattended in the aisle. I thought, hey, let's try to talk to the purser... BAD CHOICE. As I later found out, the purser wrote me up for being "contrarian" (she could say nothing else-- all I said was we have been waiting for dinner for an hour and the carts are unattended while we can hear every word of your screaming_) such that when I received a call from UA about the incident, instead of apologizing for their antics he outright threatened me for being an unruly passenger and questioning my behavior (huh???). Lesson being that with American carriers be veeery careful. Sadly, times have changed. You have little to no rights.

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snic August 17, 2018

Why would the couple fly American to their court dates, after all the airline put them through?

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Calchas August 15, 2018

"I can only hope that the evidence proving the baggage handler lied results in the handler’s being fired for cause." The person allegedly made a bomb threat. That's a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1038., 18 U.S.C. § 35, and probably other laws too. Whether her contract of employment subsists is not the main consideration.

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bhrubin August 14, 2018

I can only hope that the evidence proving the baggage handler lied results in the handler's being fired for cause. I also hope plaintiffs get a huge judgment against AA for its alleged attempts to preclude their travel on AA afterward. AA behaved very badly, it seems. AA should pay through the nose for such bad behavior and stupidity.