88 Year Old Former Olympic Wrestler Died After Lifting Checked Luggage (And There’s a Lawsuit)

A two-time Olympic wrestler spent much of his life working as a butcher. But when he retired from that job at age 72 he went to work for Spirit Airlines as a baggage handler.

After 16 years on the job, at age 88, his family says that he “lifted 500 pieces of luggage in one shift, triggering a hernia that would send him downhill.” His hernia surgey was “followed by a pneumonia, congestive heart failure, colitis, and ultimately, a heart attack” and they’re suing Spirit Airlines because of it.

Copyright: boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

Nazem Amine, a Lebanese immigrant, died last month at age 90. His 53 year old wife says his death was caused by a work-related injury and is suing for $721,000 in medical bills (only half of which she’d get to keep if she won, the remainder going to reimburse Medicare).

The question of “whether the hernia caused Nazem Amine’s heart condition” is still pending before Michigan’s workers comp board.

Spirit Airlines has said that Amine’s medical bills relating to the hernia injury have been paid by the airliner’s workers’ compensation carrier. But it said the Michigan Workers Compensation Board hasn’t yet ruled on whether the heart problem will be covered by workers’ comp. And until it does, the airline argues, the lawsuit should be dropped.

The man who competed in 1956 Melbourne and 1960 Rome Olympics, bringing home a Bronze from Rome, couldn’t stand retirement. He lived the way he wanted up until he was 88 years old.

It’s commendable, I think, that Spirit was willing to hire him in his 70s and continue employing him into his late 80s. If they’re held responsible for the health consequences of the job he wanted to do, that will make it harder for others as determined as Mr. Amine to get similar work in the future — and it’s hard to imagine that’s what he would have wanted.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Lol. Greedy widow… rather than suing, why not work as FA? Grumpy grandmas surely fit well in US3…..

  2. I think it is a sad commentary on our society that an 88 year old man felt the need to continue working. It’s really sad if you think about it.

  3. @OlderWoman – it says something about longevity in our society that someone felt able enough to do the work at that age, or even age 70. lifting things could have been this guy’s passion.

    not everyone enjoys self directed retirement

  4. Gregg, not at age 88 years old Gregg. I spend two months every year, two solid months with no breaks among people in this age group. The only reason an 88 year old man would take that type of physically brutal job at that age is because he feared for money. Now unless you spend more than 2 solid months, day in day out all meals together, every year with over 100 people in this age group you are going to have to defer to me on this.

    Men of that age would not take this type of brutal work unless they were concerned about their income.

  5. Did everyone miss the fact that the wife was 53 and he was 90!!! I’d think her needs had more to do with his early demise that the baggage but hey, it could have Spirit’s fault.

  6. This article isn’t about the wrestler, the window, or even the lawsuit, but the woefully inadequate lack of retirement saving and planning by the average American.

  7. monsrat good eye.

    this isn’t about some societal problem.

    wife 37 years younger – good for him! it’s a *choice* he made late in life.

    in fact he was 66 (!) when he married a 29 year old with a child.

    “In 1993, Amine’s wife died.
    A year later, he remarried. The bride was 37 years his junior, introduced to him by a family member. They had a daughter — who is now studying to become a doctor — and ran a sandwich shop for five years. With a new family to take care of, he wanted and needed to keep working.
    In 1999, an opportunity to work for Spirit Airlines came along.
    He went for it. ”

    article which is a great read said his grown kids were successful and had all the means to take care of him but he refused.

    it’s a great American story except for the “sue Spirit Airlines” part.

  8. Choices have consequences, nothwithstanding the leftists who always seems to think they know what’s best for the other guy.

  9. Not sure I understand why she would sue for reimbursement of medical expenses if Medicaid paid all his medical. Since it’s a worker’s comp case there’s no soft damages (e.g., pain and suffering, consortium, etc). The only one who would collect significantly is her lawyer.

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