A mother is suing the Transportation Security Administration after her partially disabled daughter who has cancer was allegedly injured and arrested by security staff at an airport.
Her daughter, 19-year-old Hannah Cohen, was on her way to fly home to Chattanooga, Tennessee, after receiving radiation treatment for a brain tumour at a children’s research hospital in Memphis.
Lawyers say Ms Cohen is limited in her ability to talk, walk, and is partially blind and deaf.
As Ms Cohen and her mother, Shirley Cohen, were walking through the security checkpoint at Memphis International Airport, the alarm went off. The Times Free Press reported that Ms Cohen’s sequined pattern on her jumper in the shape of an owl might have triggered the alarm.
The 19-year-old reportedly became disorientated by the noise and the security staff’s attempts to search her. Her mother tried to explain her daughter’s condition but she alleged that she was kept away by the police.
“The security personnel failed to recognize that she was confused because of her obvious disability and was unable to cooperate with the search,” Ms Cohen's lawyers, Kelly Pearson and William Hardwick, claimed.
“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 Cohen told WREG-TV.
She alleged that the security staff grabbed her daughter from both sides, thrust their knees into her back and put her in handcuffs.
Her daughter was arrested and spent the night behind bars instead of celebrating the end of her treatment after 17 years. A TSA agent reportedly said that her daughter had struck one of them and the agency was going to press charges.
The charges were later dropped, but the younger Ms Cohen has taken a semester off school to recover.
The family is suing the TSA for $100,000 worth of damages including pain, medical expenses, personal and emotional injury and embarrassment. The Cohen’s lawyers also argue the TSA and airport police discriminated against Ms Cohen due to her disability and failed to provide appropriate screening measures.
“Anybody can file anything, and we don't comment on active litigation,” Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority president and chief executive 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.”
A TSA spokesman said in a statement to The Independent that the agency could not comment on matters in litigation but denied that Ms Cohen attained any of the injuries that she claimed as a result of the incident at the airport.