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Disabled teen sues TSA, Memphis airport after bloody scuffle

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A disabled St. Jude Children's Research Hospital patient was injured, and then arrested, by security workers at a Memphis International Airport checkpoint, a lawsuit alleges.

CBS affiliate WREG-TV reports that 19-year-old Hannah Cohen was flying home to Chattanooga on June 30, 2015, after receiving treatment at Memphis-based St. Jude. Attorneys say Hannah Cohen has an impairment from radiation and removal of a brain tumor, and she is limited in her ability to talk, walk, stand, see and hear.

The lawsuit says an alarm went off as she and her mother were going through a security checkpoint operated by the Memphis International Airport Police Department and the Transportation Safety Administration. Hannah Cohen became disoriented by the alarm and the security workers' attempts to search her, the lawsuit says.

"The security personnel failed to recognize that she was confused because of her obvious disability and was unable to cooperate with the search," Cohen's lawyers, Kelly Pearson and William Hardwick, wrote in the lawsuit.

Her mother, Shirley Cohen, said she tried to tell TSA agents about her daughter's disability, but she was kept away by police.

"She's trying to get away from them but in the next instant, one of them had her down on the ground and hit her head on the floor. There was blood everywhere," Shirley Cohen told WREG-TV.

The lawsuit alleges the security personnel assaulted Hannah Cohen at the checkpoint, "causing her physical and emotional injury as well as emotional injury" to her mother.

Hannah was arrested, booked and on the night she should have been celebrating the end of her treatment, she was locked up in Jail East.

"Here we were with nowhere to go, not even a toothbrush, our bags had gone to Chattanooga," said Cohen.

Hannah Cohen was arrested, but the charges were later dropped. The family filed a federal lawsuit against the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority and the TSA for damages that include pain, medical expenses, personal and emotional injury, and embarrassment.

The lawsuit alleges that the TSA and airport police discriminated against Cohen because of her disability and failed to provide reasonable accommodation for screening her. The suit asks for a "reasonable sum not exceeding $100,000 and costs."

TSA spokesman Mark Howell and Jerry Brandon, chief of public safety of the Memphis International Airport Police Department, said they could not comment on pending litigation.

"Anybody can file anything, and we don't comment on active litigation," Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority president and CEO Scott Brockman told The Commercial Appeal newspaper. "Clearly there are additional facts in this matter, and we won't comment until we address the litigation."

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