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Heart Attack Victim Says Airline Let Him Suffer

HOUSTON (CN) - Continental Airlines "put its own profits over the life and safety of a passenger" by refusing to land a plane for hours while a passenger suffered a heart attack, the man claims in court.

Thomas Bintz and his wife sued Continental Airlines, United Continental Holdings and MedAire Inc. in Harris County Court.

Continental Airlines merged with United in 2010. The combined company took United's name, but kept the Continental logo.

Although the incident came after the merger, Bintz refers to the defendant as Continental Airlines throughout the complaint.

Defendant MedAire contracts with airlines and employs physicians who "attempt to assess the medical situation regarding passengers from afar," and make recommendations to flight crews about whether they should land their planes, according to the complaint.

Bintz says he had a heart attack on an April 1, 2011 Continental Airlines flight from Vancouver, B.C. to Houston.

"A passenger who happened to be a nurse with cardiac experience was on the flight," the complaint states.

"She quickly determined plaintiff was having a heart attack, administered medication and oxygen, informed the Continental Airlines flight crew of the medical emergency, and requested that the flight crew land the plane immediately so that Mr. Bintz could receive the proper emergency care vital to patients suffering a heart attack.

"The flight crew refused to divert the plane and continued for hours on to Houston, Texas."

Bintz says he suffered "severe and permanent damages to his heart" because the flight crew refused to land the plane.

After the flight took off, he began to suffer extreme chest pain, turned pale and vomited blood, Bintz says.

The good Samaritan nurse got some aspirin from another passenger and gave it to him, fearing he was having a heart attack, Bintz says.

"Mr. Bintz consumed the aspirin and the pain somewhat dissipated," the complaint states. "Approximately ten to fifteen minutes later, the severe chest pain returned. This time, the pain radiated to Mr. Bintz's back.

"Mr. Bintz described the pain as 'excruciating.' The nurse returned and, after a brief examination, informed the Continental Airlines flight attendant staff of what had been occurring with Mr. Bintz and that Mr. Bintz was very likely having a heart attack and that the plane needed to land immediately.

"Her request was refused. Continental did not land the plane, instead continuing to fly on to Houston.

"At this point, the nurse began to administer oxygen and nitroglycerine to Mr. Bintz. Mr. Bintz continued to suffer severe continuous pain in his chest, as well as in his back between his shoulders and he was sweaty and flush looking.

"Another passenger communicated with the Continental Airlines flight attendant staff, who purportedly communicated with MedAire via MedLink. It is unclear exactly what was communicated back and forth.

"Allegedly, MedAire affirmed the nitroglycerine treatment, but little else was reported to Mr. Bintz and the nurse and the plane still did not divert or land. The nurse then administered Maalox and lidocaine liquid in an effort to abate the pain. The Maalox/lidocaine treatment had no effect. The plane flew on."

Now "absolutely certain" that Bintz was having a heart attack, the nurse again requested an emergency landing, Bintz says.

"The Continental Airlines flight attendant staff did nothing other than communicate to the nurse they were aware of the situation," the complaint states. "The plane flew on.

"Frustrated, the nurse demanded to speak to MedAire via MedLink directly. Her request was refused."

Bintz says the flight attendants let the nurse speak to one of the cockpit crew.

"The member of the Continental Airlines cockpit crew informed the nurse that, based on the information it had, MedAire allegedly considered Mr. Bintz to be in 'stable condition' and had allegedly advised the Continental Airlines cockpit crew it did not have to make an unscheduled landing and could fly on," the complaint states.

Bintz says that when the plane landed in Houston several hours later, his heart attack was confirmed and he was rushed to a hospital.

He says that doctors determined that the delayed treatment permanently damaged his heart.

He seeks costs of medical treatment and damages for breach of contract and negligence.

He represented by Sean Breen with Howry Breen & Herman, of Austin.

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