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Flight attendant’s suit over husband’s COVID-19 death dismissed

Southwest Airlines

A federal district court judge has dismissed negligence charges filed by a Southwest Airlines flight attendant who blames the airline for her husband’s COVID-related death, stating that permitting the litigation could lead to a flood of lawsuits.

Flight attendant Carol Madden said she became ill with COVID-19 three days after attending training required by the Dallas-based airline in July 2020, and her husband became ill 10 days later and died from the virus’ complications in August 2020, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the U.S. District Court in Baltimore in Estate of William Madden at al. v. Southwest Airlines Co.

The court weighed various factors in considering whether the airline had a duty to protect Mr. Madden before concluding the risk of numerous lawsuits was the prevailing factor.

“Cumulatively, Maryland’s third-party duty case law and its emphasis on limiting the class of prospective future plaintiffs heavily informs the Court’s balancing,” Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher’s ruling said.

“In fact, it is the dispositive weight on the scale in favor of finding ‘no duty’ here, despite the fact that the narrow majority of factors, including foreseeability, favor imposition of duty.

“Maryland courts have made their priorities with regard to third-party duties clear, and the prospect of an unstemmed and ill-defined tide of third-party plaintiffs bringing suit predominates the duty analysis,” the court said, in dismissing the litigation.

Ms. Madden’s attorney, Dan R. Mastromarco of the Mastromarco Firm PLLP in Annapolis, Maryland, said he had no comment on the decision and was “considering the many options available to us.”

Southwest attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

More insurance and risk management news on the coronavirus crisis here.