By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York man is suing two airlines for $10 million for injuries he says he sustained in overpowering the so-called "underwear bomber" to foil his plot on Christmas Day 2009.
Theophilus Maranga says in his lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday that he "risked his life" by jumping on the would-be bomber, a Nigerian man who attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound flight with a bomb stashed in his underwear.
By that time, the clothes of the attempted bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, were in flames after he detonated the malfunctioning explosives in his underwear.
The lawsuit said Maranga lost a tooth in the act, which also left him with injured ribs, permanent numbness in his hands and a pain in his neck that hampers his movements.
In the court papers, Maranga accuses Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM of negligence for "allowing a bomber to board their aircraft with an explosive device."
Maranga's attorney, Neil Grimaldi, called his client a "hero" in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.
"Here's a guy who saves an airliner, saves hundreds of people's lives, gets hurt and they want to play cheap," Grimaldi said.
Maranga's work as an immigration attorney in Wappinger Falls, New York, has been hampered by the injuries, Grimaldi said. Maranga is also getting treatment for "numerous psychological injuries" resulting from his act, the lawsuit said.
Besides the two airlines, the lawsuit also names Abdulmutallab, who confessed to attempting to bomb the plane.
He is in prison awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in October to eight felonies, including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, attempted murder and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. He could not be reached for comment.
Abdulmutallab has said he wanted to blow up Northwest Flight 253, which had 290 people aboard as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam, to avenge the killing of innocent Muslims by the United States.
A Delta spokeswoman said the airline does not comment on pending litigation. Air France-KLM did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Grimaldi said Maranga had attempted to make a claim through a federal aviation insurance program, but that the settlement offered was insubstantial.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)