The parents of a 14-year-old girl are suing American Airlines after they say a male flight attendant hid his cellphone to secretly film their daughter in the bathroom aboard a flight in September from Charlotte to Boston.
During the Sept. 2 flight, the lawsuit alleges that a flight attendant used tape to affix an iPhone to the toilet lid and started recording right before the North Carolina teen entered the restroom.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina on Friday, says the airline “knew or should have known the flight attendant was a danger.” Other crew members failed to confiscate the employee’s phone after the girl complained about the incident, the complaint stated, which allowed him time to destroy the alleged evidence.
John Robert Buric, the attorney representing the girl’s family, said the incident was “exacerbated by the fact that the actions complained of were perpetrated by someone the airlines hired to protect this young girl.”
“In the three months since the incident occurred, no one from American Airlines has bothered to reach out or check on my client’s well-being. This must never be allowed to happen again,” Buric said Friday.
In a statement, American Airlines said, “We take this matter very seriously and have been fully cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation, as safety and security are our highest priorities.”
The airline said the flight attendant has not worked since the incident was reported, but did not respond to questions about whether they were still employed by the company.
The alleged incident occurred midflight as the teen and her family traveled to visit her brother in Boston. While she waited to use the restroom in economy class, the unnamed flight attendant approached her and told her to use the bathroom at the front of the plane in first class, the complaint stated.
After leading her there, the flight attendant allegedly entered the restroom before the teen and told her he needed to wash his hands before trash collection began. About a minute later, he exited the restroom and, according to the complaint, told the girl, “The toilet seat in there is broken. But don’t worry about it. We’re going to get it fixed when we get back to Charlotte.”
The girl saw the toilet lid had red tape with the words “SEAT BROKEN” written on it, according to the complaint. She locked the door and used the restroom. But when she tried to flush the toilet she said she found a phone hidden beneath the tape with its camera flash turned on.
The plaintiff, identified as only Jane Doe, “was shocked and scared,” the complaint stated. “It immediately occurred to her that someone had put the phone there to film her using the toilet.” She then took a photo with her own phone of the alleged setup.
Once she left the restroom, the flight attendant went back in, locked the door and the girl returned to her seat where she informed her parents of what happened.
The teen’s father insisted on seeing the male flight attendant’s phone. The lawsuit says the father witnessed the flight attendant “tapping furiously” on his device’s screen before eventually handing it over. The father did not see any suspicious or questionable videos or photos, the complaint stated.
“The male flight attendant had ample time to delete or hide on his phone, any and all incriminating images or videos on his phone during that second half of the flight, when he had complete access to his phone,” the complaint continued.
According to the family, an FBI agent informed the girl’s parents later that they did not arrest the man because they did not find images of the girl on his phone.
The teen girl is described as “jumpy, nervous, and fearful” in her interactions with others, in the complaint. She reportedly experiences insomnia and nightmares, difficulty focusing on school tasks, and is scared the flight attendant may have distributed a video or photos of her to other people. She is undergoing therapy for trauma, according to the lawsuit.