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New York Court Examines an Airline’s Liability for a Midflight Assault

Generally, parties cannot be held responsible for harm caused by the criminal acts of other individuals. There are exceptions, though, that would allow for the imposition of liability. For example, in a recent New York opinion, a court examined whether an airline could be deemed accountable for one passenger’s sexual assault of another. If you suffered harm while flying, you might be able to pursue claims against multiple parties, and it is advisable to speak to a Syracuse personal injury attorney about your potential causes of action.

The Plaintiff’s Allegations

It is alleged that in June 2017, the plaintiff boarded a flight operated by the defendant airline that was traveling from Colorado, to Arizona, to New York. She sat in the window seat, and another passenger sat in the aisle seat. Shortly before takeoff, the tortfeasor sat in the middle seat of the row, next to the plaintiff. According to the plaintiff, the tortfeasor smelled of alcohol and was stumbling, slurring his words, and was fidgeting and agitated.

It is reported, though, that other parties testified that the tortfeasor was merely enthusiastic. At some point during the flight, the tortfeasor sexually assaulted the plaintiff. The plaintiff ultimately filed a lawsuit against the defendant, arguing, among other things, that its negligence caused the plaintiff harm. The plaintiff then moved for summary judgment on numerous issues.

Liability for Allowing a Passenger to Fly While Intoxicated

The plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment included an assertion that the defendant permitted the tortfeasor to board the plane despite the fact that he was visibly intoxicated, in violation of federal regulations. In support of her motion, the plaintiff argued that there was no evidence that countered her allegations that the tortfeasor was intoxicated. Specifically, she argued that the fact that some of the witnesses that testified could not recall anything unusual about the flight did not create a genuine factual dispute as to the issue, as they merely constituted cursory allegations and lapses of memory.

Moreover, the plaintiff argued that regardless of whether there were factual disputes about the tortfeasor’s demeanor midflight, they were irrelevant to the issue of whether the defendant should be deemed liable for allowing the tortfeasor to board while intoxicated. The defendant disagreed, noting that the eyewitnesses offered conflicting reports regarding the tortfeasor’s intoxication. The court explained that while the defendant mischaracterized the eyewitness testimony about the tortfeasor’s demeanor as direct rather than circumstantial evidence, the circumstantial evidence nonetheless demonstrated a factual dispute as to whether the tortfeasor was intoxicated when he got on the plane, thereby precluding summary judgment on the issue.

 Speak to a Dedicated Syracuse Personal Injury Attorney

If you suffered personal injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you might be owed damages, and you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The dedicated Syracuse personal injury attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers are proficient at helping accident victims recover compensation for their losses, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 833-247-8427 to set up a meeting.

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