The U.S. District Court for the NMI dismissed last week the motion to dismiss wrongful death claims against Jeju Airline Company Ltd.
Last Thursday, District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona Manglona denied the motion made by Jeju Air’s lawyer, Richard Miller, to dismiss the two claims of wrongful death and intentional infliction of emotional distress filed by Mari Chung Cepeda.
Back in September, Jeju Air moved to dismiss Cepeda’s complaint in its entirety.
According to court documents, Cepeda blames Jeju Airlines for the death of her mother, Tae Hyang Bang, after the airline refused to let her board a flight for Korea so she could obtain medical treatment for her worsening heart condition.
Cepeda, in her complaint, said Bang’s heart condition took a turn for the worse in December 2020 so she decided to bring her to Korea as soon as possible to consult with a cardiologist and undergo whatever procedures were necessary to correct her condition.
Normally, Jeju Air had daily flights to Korea but as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, flights were discontinued. However, Jeju did offer a flight from Saipan to Korea on Jan. 15, 2021. Cepeda wanted Bang on that flight.
On Dec. 9, 2020, Cepeda attempted to book a seat on that flight but was unsuccessful. On that same day, she contacted Jeju Saipan staff member Ana Kim and told her that her mother was in critical condition, with a heart problem that could not be treated on Saipan and that she was desperate to get her mother to Korea as soon as possible, and she would need to have oxygen on the plane. The complaint stated that Kim told Cepeda she would do her best to help her, but had to check with Jeju Air’s upper management.
On Dec. 12, 2020, Cepeda informed Kim that she had ordered what’s called a POC, the Inogen One, which was approved and authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration, for her mother’s use. Kim later told Cepeda that Jeju Air management refused to allow Bang on the plane with the Inogen One.
Later that day, Cepeda received a message Kim who said that Jeju’s decision was final and that her mother would not be allowed on their plane to Korea on Jan. 15, 2021 with a POC.
On Dec. 30, 2020, Cepeda filed a complaint against Jeju Air with the Department of Transportation and received a reply, stating, “We will remind the carrier that as they are operating into a U.S. airport since the rule also applies to territories that they need to abide by the [Air Carrier Access Act] which requires them to accept FAA-approved POCs. We will forward your complaint to the airline and will ask the company to respond directly to you. Airlines are required to provide a substantive response to the complainant within 60 days.” As of May 10, 2021, Jeju Air had not responded to Cepeda’s complaint.
Through Bang’s relatives in Korea, Cepeda was able to arrange an appointment for Bang to have a consultation at Asan Medical Center on Jan. 28, 2021.
Cepeda then again informed Jeju Air of the desperate condition her mother was in and how critical it was for her mother to get passage on the plane from Saipan to Korea, and that the POC she would use was approved by the FAA.
The lawsuit alleged that Jeju Air callously cut her off and recklessly refused to accept her explanations and failed to conduct any investigation of its obligations under the ACAA and the FAA approval of the Inogen one POC.
According to the lawsuit, if Bang had been able to be on that flight and get to Korea on Jan. 15, 2021, she would have completed a 14-day quarantine and made the appointment at Asan Medical Center on Jan. 28, 2021.
If not for Jeju Air’s violation of the law in refusing passage to Bang using a POC, Cepeda said Bang would have arrived in Korea on Jan. 15, 2021, and would have had access to the specialized cardiac care at Asan Medical Center that would have saved her life.