Cohen, 19, was injured during a violent arrest by security agents at
Memphis International Airport, her family says. Photo / Shirley Cohen
A disabled teen was trying to fly home following her final brain
cancer treatment – but was instead left bloodied and bruised by airport
security staff, according to a lawsuit in the US.
19, was heading back to Chattanooga on June 30, 2015, after receiving a
final round of radiation at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in
Her mother, Shirley Cohen, said the pair had
made the trip home from Memphis International Airport for 17 years and
knew the security routine well.
But this time, Hannah set off the metal detector at the security checkpoint.
Transport Security Administration (TSA) agents told Hannah they needed to take her to a “sterile area” to search her.
According to the lawsuit, the then-18-year-old became disoriented and scared.
“They wanted to do further scanning. She was reluctant – she didn’t understand what they were about to do,” mum Shirley said.
said she tried to explain to the agents that her daughter was partially
deaf, blind in one eye, paralysed and easily confused as a result of 17
years of brain cancer surgeries and treatments.
But agents pushed her aside, she said.
“She’s trying to get away from them but in the next
instant, one of them had her down on the ground and hit her head on the
floor. There was blood everywhere,” Shirley told WREG-TV.
lawsuit alleges security personnel assaulted Hannah at the checkpoint,
“causing her physical and emotional injury, as well as emotional injury”
to her mother.
Hannah was arrested, taken to hospital and spent 24 hours in Shelby County jail.
When she was released, she cried in her mother’s arms, saying “I’m sorry, Mama.”
Two days later, Hannah appeared before a local judge.
Hannah Cohen is partially deaf, blind in one eye, paralysed and easily confused. Photo / Shirley Cohen
Shirley said the judge asked her daughter to explain
herself. When Hannah looked up, revealing her cuts and bruises, “the
judge’s eyes got big and round”, Shirley told The Guardian.
The charges were dropped and the court refunded the US$250 ($348) in costs the family had paid.
family filed a federal lawsuit against the Memphis-Shelby County
Airport Authority and the TSA for damages that include pain, medical
expenses, personal and emotional injury, and embarrassment.
lawsuit alleges that the TSA and airport police discriminated against
Hannah because of her disability and failed to provide reasonable
accommodation for screening her. The suit asks for a “reasonable sum not
exceeding $100,000 and costs”.
TSA spokesman Mark Howell and
Jerry Brandon, chief of public safety of the Memphis International
Airport Police Department, said they could not comment on pending
“Anybody can file anything, and we don’t comment on
active litigation,” Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority president
and CEO Scott Brockman told the Commercial Appeal newspaper.
“Clearly there are additional facts in this matter, and we won’t comment until we address the litigation.”