United defeats lawsuit by passenger arrested at Heathrow

United defeats lawsuit by passenger arrested at Heathrow
United defeats lawsuit by passenger arrested at Heathrow

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - United Airlines on Tuesday won the dismissal of a false imprisonment lawsuit by a longtime frequent flier who was arrested at London Heathrow Airport after missing her connecting flight and refusing to leave a United lounge.

Sharon Charles Cooper said she was handcuffed and held for 18 hours by London police on Aug. 25, 2014 while trying to return home from an African safari.

Cooper said she had been "hot" and "tired" and wanted to rest before rebooking her United flight to Newark, New Jersey, after her incoming flight from Nairobi had arrived late.

But she said lounge staff insisted she get a new ticket first, and still demanded that she leave even after her son rebooked her flight. Heathrow security then contacted police.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan said United did not falsely arrest or imprison Cooper given how lounge staff "clearly wanted her out" but let security call the police in.

The judge also said United was not negligent and had no duty to help Cooper rebook through the club lounge.

"Although anyone who has had a difficult flight experience can sympathize with the plight of Ms. Cooper" after "what should have been a trip of a lifetime," Caproni said no jury could rule for her.

Cooper lived in West Orange, New Jersey at the time of her July 2015 complaint.

Lawyers for Cooper did not immediately respond to requests for comment. United, whose parent is Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc, did not immediately respond to similar requests.

Airlines' alleged mistreatment of passengers has attracted more attention in a series of recent high-profile incidents, including the videotaped dragging of a doctor off an overbooked United flight in April. United apologized for that incident.

The case is Cooper v United Airlines Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-05645.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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