Vanderhorsts filing complaint over boarding incident
The Robert Vanderhorst family is filing a complaint with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and is pursuing an action in state court over their being denied boarding an American Airlines flight for what they were told was because of their Down Syndrome child.
The family has retained a legal team consisting of Paula Pearlman, a visiting law professor at Loyola Law School, Michelle Uzeta, legal director from the Disability Rights Legal Council of Los Angeles and a third attorney who offered to help with discovery.
The team will help with both processes.
“They would like a national Down Syndrome group to become plaintiffs to join us,” stated Robert Vanderhorst. “The whole process could take more than a year.”
On Sunday, he met with part of the team.
“Paula brought a student with her to Porterville and they put together a legal memo of laws that apply,” said Robert Vanderhorst who added that the family has received support from different organizations including the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) and the National Down Syndrome Society. (NDSS) According to Vanderhorst, David Tolleson, the executive director of the NDSC, has offered to write an Amicus brief.
“[It is a ] chiming in, a joining in their point of view,” added Vanderhorst.
Earlier this month the family was denied boarding the flight at Newark Airport to Los Angels due to what the family says was discrimination against their son. They flew home on a United Airlines flight where, according to Vanderhorst, they were relegated to a segregated zone at the back of the plane. The Americans with Disabilities Act excludes airlines, but under the Airline Carrier Access Act, a person can file a complaint.
He explained that the process consists of filing a complaint with the DOT.
“The DOT is an administrative process. The agency will supposedly investigate and make recommendations,” explained Vanderhorst.
However, the act is limited.
“The Air Carrier Access Act doesn’t give an aggrieved person a personal right of action,” added Vanderhorst, who pointed out that it does provide a provision for a complaints resolution official.
“The complaints resolution official could have intervened on our behalf and has authority that stops just short of the pilot,” stated Vanderhorst.
The incident has received nationwide and international press including coverage on CNN and a segment that was taped for Inside Edition, which has not aired.
On Friday, Vanderhorst was interviewed by Silke Weber of “Der Spiegel” a weekly German magazine.
The family was also slated to tape a segment for the Dr. Oz show.
“We thought Dr. Oz would be the best platform to tell our story but they have gotten cold feet,” said Vanderhorst. He added that the show was supposed to fly them out this week to tell their story but due to costs, they wanted to do it by Skype.