Army vet sues after claims of injury, mistreatment at O’Hare - FOX 32 News Chicago

Army vet sues after claims of injury, mistreatment at O’Hare: EXCLUSIVE

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Joseph Smith is a retired Army Sergeant and former Marine who was paralyzed from the waist down while serving in Afghanistan. He was left with a spinal cord injury and Traumatic Brain Injury when two Afghanis pushed a 450-pound container from the roof of a storage building, landing on him, he says.

He now travels with a Paralympic shooting team, which is what led the North Carolina native to O'Hare airport on a layover.

"He always travels wearing his team Semper Fi jumpsuit, so not just a handicapped man, but something that, everyone knew he was a veteran," says Smith's attorney, Alexander Loftus. "And to just leave him to fend for himself, is just outrageous. "

Smith says an Air Serv employee was pushing his wheelchair out of a United plane, but his wheel was stuck. Over the phone, he told FOX 32 News how he warned the employee not to force the chair, when he fell forward.

"I have a TBI, a traumatic brain injury and my reflexes are slow, so I couldn't catch myself. I landed on my head," Sgt. Smith explained.

The lawsuit claims that fall gave him a concussion, but, that didn't stop Smith's troubling experience that day. On his next United flight, his wheelchair was too wide to get him inside, so he had to hop out of his chair.

"I crawl on my butt 3 feet in on that ramp...and 7 aisles back with no assistance from the stewardess or the pilot. My waste bag burst, so I have urine all over me. I put my jacket over my lap because people were looking at me. I was so embarrassed."

United Airlines released this brief statement about the lawsuit: "Our preliminary review does not corroborate Mr. Smith's version of events."

Smith says he didn't want to file a lawsuit against United or Air Serv, but he felt there was no other way.

"I didn't fight for this country to be treated that way," said Smith.

An Air Serv representative in Chicago says they were not aware of the pending lawsuit, so they did not have a comment at this time.

The lawsuit is set to be filed Tuesday morning.

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