Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is one of the crown jewels of Atlanta, and of the state of Georgia. It’s world famous as the busiest airport in existence and treasured by the city as a cornerstone of the local economy.
It has also been plagued by allegations of corruption and lackadaisical safety practices.
Travelers passing through Hartsfield-Jackson must navigate a minefield of hazardous and poorly maintained facilities, the product of decades of emphasis on expansion, appearances, and financial gain, at the expense of passenger safety.
Unfortunately, we at The Stoddard Firm can’t walk you through the airport premises. However, if you have sustained injuries at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport while trying to make your way to your destination, our Atlanta airport injury lawyer can assist you in navigating the legal process of holding the airport responsible and get you the help you need to put your life back in order.
The Path to and from Each Flight Is Fraught with Safety Hazards
Hartsfield-Jackson Airport Injuries from Escalators and Moving Walkways Are Common
Those feeling especially anxious when entering an airport often suffer from a fear of flying. In reality, the time you spend in the air will be one of the safest parts of your trip— especially if the rest of your journey includes traversing the grounds of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Unfortunately, the potential for injuries is considerable.
The airport’s aging escalators are prone to snagging clothes and shoes, leading to serious injuries.
In one two-month period, Hartsfield-Jackson’s escalators caused serious foot injuries to no fewer than three small children.
Management’s official response was to blame the children’s shoes. It wasn’t until five years later that upgrades to some of the escalators were finally announced — but only on one concourse, where there was concern about traffic congestion interfering with concession sales. That same year, two unchanged escalators caught fire elsewhere in the airport, and two firefighters were injured trying to bring the blaze under control.
Much like the escalators, the airport’s moving walkways are incredibly dangerous; they can easily entrap body parts and articles of clothing. They’re also a common cause of slipping and tripping accidents, due to the disorientation that comes with stepping on and off of them while being rushed along by large crowds.
Traveling through an airport should be safe. Escalators and walkways should be appropriately manufactured and installed and always well-maintained to protect individuals from getting caught or slipping and tripping. If you have been injured on an escalator or walkway at Hartsfield-Jackson, reach out to us as soon as possible. Our Atlanta airport injury lawyer can review your case and determine if you are eligible for compensation for your injuries. We will help you to pursue a settlement to cover your expenses.
The “Plane Train” Shortcut Carries Dangers of Its Own
If you have traveled through Hartsfield-Jackson, you are likely familiar with the Plane Train. Quite simply, it is often the quickest and most convenient way to catch your flight. In fact, depending upon the location of your gate, the only alternative to a Plane Train ride may be trekking for over a mile through crowded public walkways.
The Plane Train has always been dangerous because of how quickly it accelerates and decelerates (called “jerk”), but it has also been showing its age in recent years. Within a two-month period in 2018, a metal plate broke off of one of its switches, allowing it to damage its own track; and on a different day, the plumes of smoke from its overheating brakes set off a fire alarm.
Many locals are so accustomed to the Plane Train’s halting and downright rickety movements that they’ve come to think of it as harmlessly quirky. First-time visitors to Atlanta, on the other hand, tend to be rightly alarmed by the train’s sudden accelerations and decelerations. When it jolts between moving at high speed and a full stop, there’s nothing passengers can do to protect themselves but cling to the sparsely provided poles, the walls, each other, and whatever else they can grab in the standing-room-only interior.
Needless to say, falls often occur. Older passengers and those with medical conditions that require moving carefully are at particular risk of serious injuries, such as broken bones and herniated discs, both during the Plane Train ride and during the rush to board before the automated doors close.
Hartsfield-Jackson’s Lack of Disaster Preparation Has Been Well Demonstrated
Perhaps the most dangerous journey the Plane Train has ever taken was on the day of the Hartsfield-Jackson power outage.
On December 17, 2017, the airport’s underground power supply caught fire for unknown reasons, leading to an 11-hour blackout during the peak of the holiday travel season.
Throughout the ordeal, passengers were trapped in various parts of the airport, including on the Plane Train, which was stopped in the same tunnel where the fire was burning out of control.
Thankfully, through sheer luck, no one was hurt, but the outage caused serious problems throughout the airport. Without a doubt, this event was cause for concern for the future safety of all passengers.
Crime at Hartsfield-Jackson Is Also a Problem
Travelers using the Atlanta airport should not need to worry about their personal safety and the security of their property. Unfortunately, safety and security are well-documented concerns, with issues occurring frequently.
In 2019, a gate agent was sexually assaulted in an airport concourse. She was rescued by a coworker who just happened to be in the same area, but the potential for greater injury was present.
More recently, in 2022, luggage (containing valuables and military equipment) was stolen from the airport. Police were able to track it using GPS, and the owner was able to retrieve his belongings.
These are two examples of the many crimes passengers experience at the airport. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that this airport is the site of the most firearms found and confiscated at airports in the U.S. Clearly, security is a significant problem, and incidents continue to occur. If you were a victim of a crime at the airport, the The Stoddard Firm has attorneys who have helped many others in negligent security cases, and they can help you be compensated for your losses, too.
An Ongoing $6 Billion Upgrade May Do Little to Improve Safety
Planned Projects Don’t Address Many Current Problems
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is currently in the midst of a massive modernization project that’s expected to take 20 years and cost $6 billion. That seems like an overdue but commendable step in addressing the airport’s unsafe conditions — until one reviews the itemized plan.
Construction of an on-site fire department is under way, which will hopefully provide for more efficient responses to the airport’s electrical malfunctions, but it’s hard to know the extent of safety improvement that will actually result from the fire department’s presence. A representative for Hartsfield-Jackson promises that the concourse modernization part of the project will include escalator improvements and additional lighting for security and fall prevention — one can only hope this is true — but the remainder of the checklist focuses almost entirely on aesthetics and expanding capacity.
Even the plans for the Plane Train, which has run continuously without upgrades for over 30 years, are limited to extending its track and reducing its wait times. There are no planned changes to its rate of acceleration or toward having more places to sit or hold onto as the Plane Train moves.
The Busiest Airport in the World Is Plagued with Allegations of Corruption
The Most Qualified Vendors Are Often Not Selected to Work at the Airport
Hartsfield-Jackson’s “biggest in the world” reputation, along with the high-traffic realities of being the world’s busiest airport, make it one of the most important economic assets in the state. This, in turn, has made it the subject of bitter power struggles and frequent allegations of corruption.
One of the unethical practices alleged to have occurred at Hartsfield-Jackson in recent years is the awarding of big-ticket contracts to the friends and family of management and city officials, or to those who offer the biggest bribes.
By law, contractors for public works, including airports, must be selected according to fair, evenly enforced policies.
Based on these allegations at Hartsfield-Jackson, the airport came under state-level scrutiny in 2016. Atlanta’s mayor at the time, Kasim Reed, responded by trying to cover up the existence of the state investigation while encouraging the Atlanta City Council to proceed with a vote on a new set of proposed contracts.
He then fired the general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson, leading to a public falling out between the two, during which they both accused each other of criminal misconduct. The feud eventually ended with Reed secretly arranging for the city to pay the former general manager $147,000, and both of them declaring a truce.
Later, under Mayor Reed’s successor, Mayor Bottoms, Atlanta’s Chief Purchasing Officer served jail time for accepting bribes, including those allegedly from a construction company that had been awarded large amounts of work at Hartsfield-Jackson. That company’s owner was accused of attempting to intimidate the Chief Purchasing Officer into lying about the bribes, and he was himself indicted on 51 counts of bribery, money laundering, tax evasion, and witness tampering.
In early 2019, shortly after a passenger accidentally carried a gun through a security checkpoint without detection, the state went so far as to try to remove control of Hartsfield-Jackson from the city government, much to the outrage of Mayor Bottoms. The proposed bill ended up being rewritten to leave the airport under city jurisdiction while establishing a state oversight committee.
Issues even occurred in the bidding for Hartsfield-Jackson’s concessions and retail contracts, In fact, right in the middle of preparations for the bidding, the Director of Concessions was fired after allegations of multiple acts of sexual harassment surfaced, including allegations of forcibly kissing female employees working under him.
Instances of corruption seem to occur on a regular basis and are certainly an issue that should raise concern from all those who use the airport. When opportunities for significant personal gain arise, regard for public safety seems to take a backseat.
A Corrupt and Mismanaged Airport Is Never a Safe Airport
Favoritism in awarding airport contracts is not only an abuse of power, a misappropriation of public funds, and discriminatory toward ethical contractors; it also opens the airport up to lower quality services at higher prices.
Ultimately, it’s the passengers who end up paying the price of airport management’s decisions.
When improperly selected contractors are put in charge of projects affecting safety, sometimes that price takes the form of severe bodily injuries.
For example, in June of 2019, a woman passing through Hartsfield-Jackson says she discovered shards of glass in a drink she ordered from a vendor, and her doctor later confirmed that her subsequent stomach pains were the result of having ingested some of the glass. While this particular incident may not have been foreseeable for Hartsfield-Jackson, safety lapses tend to happen much more easily when contractors are chosen for the personal enrichment of management and elected officials, rather than for the quality they provide to those using the airport. The same danger applies to more obviously hazardous features — like escalators and elevators — that have been worked on by a chosen contractor.
In some cases, serious problems can occur from seemingly minor lapses in work ethic. For example, the Hartsfield-Jackson airport has miles of walkways, and when janitorial staff fails to clean food and drinks from those walkways, passengers can get seriously injured in slip and fall/trip and fall accidents. Even a small careless decision such as delaying the cleaning of a walkway can sometimes have serious consequences, because when older airport patrons fall, they tend to break bones.
Even when the chosen contractors are competent, the use of the airport as a way of making income still poses a danger to travelers. In-power decision-makers are highly motivated to maintain the airport’s high traffic and sought-after status among contractors, thereby maintaining their own opportunities to profit. To that end, appearances and capacity can become the priority, leaving safety by the wayside.
The Stoddard Firm Has Experience Representing Victims of Hartsfield-Jackson’s Premises Liability
Have You Been Injured at the Airport?
Legitimate visitors to any property, public or private, have the right to a safe environment. Airports are no exception.
When the management of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport puts profits ahead of passenger safety, it’s responsible for the resulting harm that comes to those passengers.
The economic power of Hartsfield-Jackson, and its integral role in Atlanta politics, can make it an intimidating foe for a wronged passenger. Still, with the help of expert legal counsel, you can get the compensation you deserve.
At The Stoddard Firm, we have extensive experience not only with premises liability and product claims, we also have specific experience with Hartsfield-Jackson’s history of negligence.
We’re intimately acquainted with the airport’s past legal proceedings and with previous injuries on the property. We know that accidents at Hartsfield-Jackson should no longer come as a surprise to anyone, and we are committed to helping injured passengers be compensated for their losses.
Our Airport Injury Lawyer in Atlanta Can Help
Getting hurt at a major airport was likely at the bottom of the list of your travel concerns. Sadly, airport injuries are more common than you would think. Each day, accidents occur in airports around the world, including Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta.
If you have been hurt traveling through the Atlanta airport you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
Obtaining it, though, can be a challenge. This is where our Atlanta airport injury lawyer can help. We will leverage our knowledge of Georgia premises liability, personal injury, and negligent security law, our experience in handling airport injury cases, and our client-focused service approach to managing your case from beginning to end.
Our team will ensure your case is filed in accordance with the statute of limitations, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf and represent you, in court, if necessary.
At The Stoddard Firm, we believe that you have the right to travel safely. When organizations and individuals do not act appropriately, and you are injured, they should be held accountable. Contact us today at 470-467-2200 to learn just how powerfully we can serve you.
Attorney Matt Stoddard
Matt Stoddard is a professional, hardworking, ethical advocate. He routinely faces some of the nation’s largest companies and some of the world’s largest insurers – opponents who have virtually unlimited resources. In these circumstances, Mr. Stoddard is comfortable. Mr. Stoddard provides his strongest efforts to his clients, and he devotes the firm’s significant financial resources to presenting the strongest case possible on their behalf. Matt understands that his clients must put their trust in him. That trust creates an obligation for Matt to work tirelessly on their behalf, and Matt Stoddard does not take that obligation lightly. [ Attorney Bio ]
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