The family of a girl allegedly groped by a passenger on an American Airlines flight has filed a US$10 million (AU$13.5 million) lawsuit against the airline and the accused.
For an hour before the flight from Dallas to Portland, the 13-year-old had met and spent time with flight crew on board the plane as an “unaccompanied minor”, an option for which the girl’s family had paid an extra fee.
However, once in the air, it became apparent the passenger sitting next to her on the flight, which was only half full, was abusing her.
According to the lawsuit, suspect Chad Cameron Camp was seen having four drinks just prior to the flight, and once seated, “(a)lmost immediately, and without intervention from American … began to rub up against (the teen) lean close to her and fondle her body with his hand”, Portland’s KOIN TV reported.
American finally moved a reluctant Camp to the back of the plane after 30 minutes of harassment, when a flight attendant saw the 26-year-old “with his hand in (the teen’s) crotch and a tear falling from her cheek”.
The teen was also moved, directly behind first class, while the fasten seatbelt sign was left on for the remainder of the flight.
With the incident under FBI investigation, the lawsuit claims AA failed in its duty of care for the teenager, leaving the girl unsupervised for so long Camp was “permitted by American to commit several acts of sexual abuse…intimidate…and trap her against the airplane window”.
“Furthermore, American’s reckless indifference to (the teen’s) health, safety and welfare rises to the level of willful and wanton disregard for the rights or safety of (the teen),” the suit states.
According to Associated Press, an American Airlines spokesman said the company was reviewing the lawsuit and continuing to cooperate with the FBI investigation.
The teen’s mother told KOIN TV she had dealt with “so many different emotions”, but the carrier needed better policies to protect unaccompanied minors, like ensuring they were always seated near cabin crew.
“You’re sad that your child has to deal with this for the rest of her life.”