Canada·CBC Investigates

Summary of 8 lawsuits that allege wheelchair service problems at Pearson airport led to injuries

A CBC News investigation has discovered that at least eight separate wheelchair travellers or their families have launched court fights against the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which runs Pearson International, as well as various airlines and contracted companies since 2011.

​ANTONIA BECCHETTI — St. Catharines, Ont.

Antonia Becchetti. (Becchetti family)
The sons of 82-year-old Antonia Becchetti claim their mother died from a fall because she didn't receive pre-arranged wheelchair assistance when she arrived at Toronto's Pearson airport on Oct. 13, 2011.

Their lawsuit alleges airline and ground crews "failed" to help their mother off the plane, leaving her to walk on her own towards the immigration counter. She fell backwards on an escalator and struck her head, and died the following day in hospital.

The suit seeks $1.2 million and alleges negligence on the part of Air Transat, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority and Toronto Ground Airport Services (TGAS), a company contracted by GTAA.

Both Air Transat and GTAA deny any negligence and argue Becchetti failed to wait for wheelchair assistance. CBC found no statement of defence from TGAS in the public court file. Repeated requests for comment sent to the company's lawyer were not returned. The allegations have not been tested in court. READ COURT DOCUMENTS


ISABELL MACKIE — Flin Flon, Man.

Isabell Mackie and her daughter Laurel arrived at Toronto's Pearson airport for a WestJet flight on June 16, 2012.
Isabell Mackie. (Courtesy of Mackie family)

They have launched a $2.25-million lawsuit against WestJet and the GTAA that alleges Isabell Mackie didn't receive the wheelchair assistance she had requested.

The suit claims Mackie had to walk to her awaiting aircraft and tripped and fell on the ramp to the plane because of a steep decline and gap between the bridge and the airplane. Mackie alleges she suffered "serious and permanent injuries."

Both the GTAA and WestJet deny any negligence and argue Mackie is to blame for her injuries. They have both launched cross-claims against each other. The allegations have not been tested in court. READ COURT DOCUMENTS


BINU MAIYA SHAHI — Brampton, Ont.

Binu Maiya Shahi. (Shahi family)
Binu Maiya Shahi arrived at Toronto Pearson airport on a Jet Airways flight from India on March 17, 2013, and was assisted by a wheelchair attendant working for Servisair (formerly Swissport), a company contracted by the GTAA.

Shahi, who now lives in a nursing home in India, has launched a $1-million lawsuit alleging the attendant left her alone at the luggage carousel, took away the wheelchair and told her to fetch her own bags. Shahi claims that when she stood up to collect her bags she was bumped by another passenger and fell, sustaining various injuries including a fractured hip.

Both the GTAA and Servisair deny any negligence and argue Shahi is to blame for her injuries. The GTAA cross-claimed against Swissport. The allegations have not been tested in court. READ COURT DOCUMENTS


​PRATIBHA PATEL — Brampton, Ont.

Pratibha Patel arrived at Pearson airport on an Air Canada flight from London on March 19, 2013. She's launched an $800,000 lawsuit against the airline, the GTAA and Servisair (formerly Swissport), a company contracted by the GTAA.

Patel claims an airline worker helped her deplane using a wheelchair but left her unattended at an elevator. Patel says she was compelled to try to walk on her own, but fell and suffered permanent injuries.

Air Canada denies any negligence and argues Patel was left in a waiting area and told to remain seated but chose to walk on her own.

Servisair says it was unaware of the incident, and launched a cross-claim against Air Canada. The GTAA denies that it was negligent, and cross-claimed against both Air Canada and Servisair. The allegations have not been tested in court. READ COURT DOCUMENTS


JULIE LUCKEVICH — Victoria, B.C.

Julie Luckevich arrived at Toronto Pearson Airport on April 26, 2014, for an Air Canada flight for which she claims to have pre-arranged wheelchair assistance.

Luckevich has launched a $1.34-million lawsuit against the GTAA and Air Canada. She claims airline staff wheeled her down the boarding ramp to the plane but failed to lock both wheels of the chair. She alleges when she stood to board the plane, the chair suddenly slipped backwards causing her to fall forward and injure her wrist.

The GTAA and Air Canada have yet to file statements of defence. The allegations have not been tested in court. READ COURT DOCUMENTS


HASSAN HEMMATI — Mississauga, Ont.

Hassan Hemmati. (Hemmati family)
Hassan Hemmati and his wife arrived at Toronto Pearson airport on June 23, 2014, for a Turkish Airlines flight to Iran.

Hemmati has launched a $1-million lawsuit against Turkish Airlines, the GTAA and federal airport security officers alleging that after being wheeled from the check-in counter to a screening checkpoint he was told he'd have to stand and walk through the security scanner. He claims no wheelchair was available for him on the other side of the scanners, and that he fell and broke his hip.

The defendants have yet to file statements of defence. The allegations have not been tested in court. READ COURT DOCUMENTS


PETER TOUSIOS — Toronto

Peter Tousios arrived at Toronto Pearson airport on an Air Canada flight from Greece on Sept. 9, 2014. He's filed an $850,000 lawsuit against the GTAA and Air Canada that alleges he asked airline attendants for a wheelchair but was told none was available. He says he proceeded to walk from the plane into the airport and tripped over some luggage and violently struck his head.

He claims if he'd been provided a wheelchair, he'd never have been hurt.

Air Canada argues Tousios didn't request a wheelchair when booking his ticket and disregarded instructions to remain seated on the plane if he needed further help. The GTAA denies any negligence and cross-claimed against Air Canada. The allegations have not been tested in court. READ COURT DOCUMENTS


CLARA AND MONTE DENABURG — Toronto

Clara Denaburg and her husband Monte arrived at Pearson airport on a US Airways flight from Florida on March 3, 2010, having pre-arranged wheelchair service for both herself and Monte.

They filed a lawsuit against the GTAA, US Airways and Toronto Ground Airport Services (TGAS), a company contracted by the GTAA, in which they alleged they were only provided with one wheelchair. The suit alleged that while Monte used the wheelchair, Clara made her way on her own with a walker and fell, suffering a broken hip and other injuries.

The GTAA denied any negligence and cross-claimed against TGAS and US Airways. The matter was settled on Sept. 26, 2013. READ COURT DOCUMENTS