A Southwest Airlines flight attendant is suing the Dallas-based airline company in a wrongful death lawsuit alleging she caught COVID-19 at a mandatory training and transmitted the virus to her husband, who died from it a month later.
Carol Madden, 69, lives in Pennsylvania and is based out of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. On July 13, 2020, she attended a mandatory training for flight attendants according to her attorney Dan Mastromarco.
"There's a lot of intimate handling of various materials that flight attendants have to use, of course, they're training them for safety precautions during flights," said Mastromarco. "They have to handle placards, they have hooded face masks from time to time, they have to handle door handles, they have to shout, sometimes scream, various safety measures, they have to handle test dummies."
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He alleges that Madden was exposed to COVID-19 during this time and believes it was from a lack of safety protocols such as enforcing the type of masks worn, cleaning surfaces, and social distancing.
“The promises that they make, to make sure that the customers feel safe on their flights were certainly not practiced with respect to their own family of employees that were present that day," alleged Mastromarco.
According to the lawsuit, "Throughout the entire training session, Southwest utterly failed to implement the most basic precautions to safeguard the health and well being of the Flight Attendant Trainees from inception of the training through contact tracing."
It goes on to allege that temperatures for people in Madden's group were not taken and there were no health screening questions asked.
Madden believes she caught the virus from someone who was in her group after the person posted on Facebook that they had COVID-19.
"What's most astonishing about this is that Mrs. Madden actually learned that the individual sitting within four feet of her during the entire training session had COVID-19 from Facebook," Mastromarco said.
The lawsuit states Madden's husband, William, picked her up from the training to head back home to York, Pennsylvania. Three days later, his wife started feeling symptoms such as a headache and pain in her left ear. As the days went on, her symptoms worsened.
On July 23, 2020, the couple was tested for COVID-19. The following day is when Madden saw the Facebook post from one of the Southwest Flight attendant trainees stating they had the virus, according to the lawsuit. It goes on to say she saw another flight attendant, whom she shared a table with, that also had tested positive for the virus on July 17.
"They did not practice the requisite contact tracing that I believe they should have done, which would have alerted Mrs. Madden early on to the fact that she had been exposed to COVID-19. She did not have to wonder if this was a common cold that she had or that was transmitted to her husband," alleged Mastromarco.
As she recovered, her husband did not and he was taken to the hospital on Aug. 1, 2020. The 73-year-old had COVID pneumonia, and died alone on Aug. 12, 2020.
"This was her sweetheart that passed away. This was somebody who she was meant to spend the rest of her life with and she feels as if the entire floor has been swept out from under her," Mastromarco said.
The pair had been married for 35 years and had known each other since they were 17.
Her lawsuit states she believes that had she not participated in the mandatory training by Southwest, she would not have contracted the illness and her husband would still be alive today.
In a statement to NBC DFW, Southwest Airlines said, the safety and well-being of its employees and customers "has been our uncompromising priority" since the beginning of the pandemic and extended "our sincere sympathy to Ms. Madden."
"Southwest has taken enhanced measures to clean and maintain our aircraft, airports, and work centers and follows all notification guidelines in accordance with the CDC," the statement read. "Additionally, the Southwest Team works each day to ensure that our multi-layered approach to supporting our Employee and Customer safety stays current with research findings and public health recommendations. Southwest will continue our dedicated efforts to support our People and communities as we collectively work together to slow the spread of COVID-19 during the ongoing pandemic."