Family Sues After Disabled Teen Beaten Bloody at Memphis Airport

According to the lawsuit, airport security threw the 19-year-old to the ground after she refused to go back through a metal detector.

  • Published 2 July 2016

A partially paralyzed teenager who was returning home after being treated for a brain tumor was reportedly beaten bloody by airport security, then led out of the Memphis International Airport in handcuffs.  

According to a lawsuit filed by her family against the Transportation Security Administration, the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, and Memphis airport police on 28 June 2016, 19-year-old Hannah Cohen was headed back to Chattanooga after visiting St. Jude Hospital for treatment in June 2015:

10. The Plaintiff, Hannah Cohen, is an individual who has a physical and mental impairment that substantially limit one or more of her life activities and has a record of such impairment. She had this physical and mental impairment on June 30, 2015 and before.

11. More particularly, the Plaintiff, Hannah Cohen, has damage from radiation and removal of a brain tumor that substantially limits her ability to speak, walk, stand, see, hear, care for herself, learn and work, think, concentrate, and interact with others.

12. This substantial limitation on her life activity by the radiation and removal of the brain tumor causes her to be significantly limited in the ability the life activities listed above compared to the manner, duration, and conditions which individuals are able to perform these activities.  This substantial limitation is obvious on sight and was obvious on June 30, 2015.

When Hannah Cohen went through airport security, she apparently set off the metal detectors. When she was approached by TSA workers, she became disoriented and confused and refused to go through the scanner again.

The lawsuit details that her mother tried to intervene, but to no avail: 

16. The Plaintiff, Shirley Cohen, repeatedly tried to tell the personnel manning the security checkpoint of her daughter’s brain tumor and disabilities. However, the personnel at the security checkpoint refused to listen to the Plaintiff, Shirley Cohen, concerning her daughter’s disability.  They proceeded to assault the Plaintiff, Hannah Cohen, at the checkpoint, causing her physical and emotional injury as well as emotional injury to the Plaintiff, Shirley Cohen as she witnessed the assault on her daughter.

Shirley Cohen snapped a photograph of her daughter on the ground before she says she was pushed away by security.  Hannah Cohen was arraigned on “various charges,” which were later dropped in their entirety:

The next morning – now two days without their belongings, which had made the flight home – the pair appeared before a local judge, who asked the accused to explain herself.

When Hannah responded, the judge said: “You’re going to have to speak up.”

That’s when Hannah looked up and her hair fell back from her face, revealing her unseeing eye, surrounded by cuts and contusions.

“The judge’s eyes got big and round,” Shirley said. 

After inquiring if the pair were from Memphis, the judge recommended they get legal representation.

The family is now suing for a “reasonable sum, not exceeding $100,000.00”, plus an undisclosed amount in punitive damages. The TSA has not officially commented on the lawsuit, but a spokesperson released a statement saying “Passengers can call ahead of time to learn more about the screening process for their particular needs or medical situation.”

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