MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Woman sues Delta Air Lines after sexually assaulted on flight by employee

Mar 29, 2024, 6:51 AM | Updated: Apr 2, 2024, 3:19 pm

delta sexual assault...

A Delta airlines aircraft landing from Los Angeles at Kingsford Smith International airport on October 31, 2021. (Photo: James D. Morgan, Getty Images)

(Photo: James D. Morgan, Getty Images)

Last year, a woman was sexually assaulted on a Delta Air Lines flight from Phoenix to Seattle by an airline employee while she was on her way home from attending a Taylor Swift concert. Now, she has filed a lawsuit against both the airline and her attacker.

The victim was allegedly asleep after taking sleeping pills on the flight before a man seated next to her took her hand and placed it on his crotch while reaching under the woman’s shirt and touching her breasts, according to the Department of Justice.

“The victim was flying home from a Taylor Swift concert, she put on her AirPods and went to sleep. Sitting next to her was a Delta employee, a guy in his 50s, and he started groping and sexually assaulting her while she was asleep,” Mark Lindquist, a personal injury attorney in Tacoma representing the victim, told KIRO Newsradio. “He pled guilty in federal court and admitted the assault went on for several minutes before she woke up.”

More assaults on flights: Man accused of stabbing another passenger on a flight from Seattle to Las Vegas charged

Duane Brick, 53, a Delta Air Lines mechanic, pleaded guilty to abusive sexual contact on March 5. He is no longer employed by the airline. He faces up to two years in prison with a sentencing scheduled on June 10, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“No surprise here, but alcohol was involved,” Lindquist said. “That’s no excuse, of course, but it raises the issue of ‘how does this guy get this drunk on this flight?’ And secondly, even after the victim woke up and she and the witness reported the sexual assault to flight attendants, it took the cabin crew about 15 minutes before they moved the intoxicated perpetrator to a different seat.”

The lawsuit against Delta alleges that the airline overserved the perpetrator who reportedly already smelled of alcohol when he boarded the plane. The lawsuit also alleges the airline failed to adequately train employees on how to prevent and address sex assaults, and failed to monitor the cabin and protect passengers properly.

“The victim in this case is understandably traumatized. She’s in counseling,” Lindquist said. “What she wants out of this lawsuit is accountability and some kind of assurance that this is going to be fixed so it doesn’t happen again to another passenger.

“When you’re on an airplane and you put on your AirPods and go to sleep, you should be able to feel safe when you do that,” Lindquist added.

More Delta sexual assault lawsuits

Delta Air Lines is facing another suit from the family of a 13-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually assaulted on a flight in 2022. The perpetrator, Brian Patrick Durning, was sentenced to five years in prison last September after he was found guilty on three counts of assault.

More on assaults on flights: Sexual assaults on airplanes see dramatic rise

The family’s lawsuit is accusing Delta of gross negligence, claiming the airline “enabled” the assault by allowing a “visibly intoxicated” Durning to board the flight and serving him alcohol throughout. The lawsuit also accuses the cabin crew of not restraining Durning and merely moving him to an aisle seat two rows ahead, where he reportedly “continued to harass” the victim.

This occurred on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Orlando. The assault took place while the lights were dimmed and most passengers were sleeping. The victim has selective mutism, which made her unable to call for help during the assault.

“Since the first of the year (in 2023), we have seen an increase in reports of sexual assaults on aircraft,” U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman said. “It is quite unusual for us to have four filed cases as well as multiple active, but as yet uncharged, investigations in our office at one time. We take these cases seriously and work with the FBI to investigate and prosecute them. Federal prison is the destination for those convicted of sexual abuse on an aircraft.”

From 2019 to 2021 there was a 25% increase in investigations of sexual misconduct on planes, according to KING 5. In 2018, there were 27 sexual misconduct investigations. In 2022, that number rose to 90 investigations.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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Woman sues Delta Air Lines after sexually assaulted on flight by employee