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American Airlines let a flight attendant delete 'evidence' after filming a teen girl with a hidden camera in an airplane bathroom, new lawsuit alleges

A cellphone reportedly taped to the inside of a toilet on an American Airlines flight.
A family says that their teen daughter discovered a cellphone taped to the insight of a toilet seat on an American Airlines flight on September 3, 2023.Lewis & Llewellyn LLP
  • A new lawsuit alleges that an American Airlines flight attendant hid a camera inside a plane bathroom.

  • The suit alleges that the flight attendant used a cell phone to film a 14-year-old in the bathroom.

  • The airline has been accused of letting the staffer "destroy" any "incriminating evidence."

A lawsuit filed on Friday alleges that an American Airlines flight attendant used a hidden bathroom cell phone to film a 14-year-old girl and that the airline gave the staffer enough time to "destroy" any "incriminating evidence."

The federal civil suit, obtained by Business Insider, says that the teen passenger was left "deeply scarred" and with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The lawsuit says the incident happened on American Airlines Flight 1441 from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Boston, Massachusetts, on September 2.

American Airlines told Business Insider in a statement: "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 lawsuit states that the accused attendant has not been arrested. However, he was "immediately withheld" from service and has not worked since, the airline said.

According to the suit, brought by the North Carolina teen only identified as "Jane Doe" against American Airlines Group, the girl was traveling with her parents and younger sister and got up to use the bathroom about halfway through the flight.

As she was waiting for the bathroom in coach, a male flight attendant, identified in the court papers as "Doe 1" and also named as a defendant, told her she could use the bathroom in first class because it would be faster, the lawsuit says.

The teen thought it was "odd" because she saw that the first-class bathroom was in use, but she went along anyway, according to the court documents.

The suit alleges the flight attendant told the girl he needed to quickly wash his hands first, and when he left the bathroom after about a minute said: "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 teen saw a phone hidden under tape on the toilet seat lid

The lawsuit alleges that the girl noticed that the toilet seat lid had red tape on it with black handwriting that read "seat broken" before she sat down to use the bathroom. Once she was done, she realized there was a phone hidden under the tape with its camera lens sticking out and the flash on, the lawsuit alleges.

The girl was "shocked and scared," and it "immediately occurred to her that someone had put the phone there to film her using the toilet," the lawsuit says. The teen then took a photo of what she saw and quickly told her mother, who rushed to the front of the plane to warn other passengers, according to the suit.

The girl's parents confronted multiple flight attendants about what happened, including one who described the matter as "very serious" and promised to alert the pilot, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that the teen's father went after the flight attendant who led his daughter to the first-class bathroom and demanded to see his phone.

"I don't know what you're talking about. I have nothing to do with this," the employee told the dad, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit says that the attendant walked toward the front of the plane, and the girl's father later saw him in the aisle "tapping furiously on his phone" before the dad grabbed the phone out of the employee's hands.

"The male flight attendant begrudgingly showed Plaintiff's father the photos on his phone, but Plaintiff's father did not see anything that looked like his daughter using the bathroom," the court papers say, adding that the dad only got to look for a few moments.

During the flight, other attendants apologized to the parents and said the accused employee would have his bags checked upon landing, but "none of the flight attendants or the pilot(s) seized the male flight attendant's phone," the suit says.

Erin Reding, an attorney for the family of the teen, told Business Insider that the girl identified the phone she saw in the bathroom as the same one that belonged to the accused attendant.

"The phone was a blue phone and the case had distinctive markings," Reding said. "It was very distinctive, and it was very easy for her to identify."

Reding said that "common sense says" the phone was placed in the bathroom "for a purpose to record people — specifically this young girl — using the bathroom."

The attendant had 'complete, unfettered access to his phone' for an hour

The lawsuit alleges that the accused attendant had "complete, unfettered access to his phone" during the hour-long remainder of the flight.

The FBI, according to the suit, informed the girl's mom that other staffers reported that after the attendant was confronted by the teen's father, he went into the bathroom with his phone "for an extended period of time."

Law enforcement responded when the plane landed in Boston and the family filed a police report and also met with an FBI agent, according to the suit.

The suit says that the teen's mom later contacted the FBI for an update on the case, and she was told the accused attendant was not arrested because "by the time they searched his phone, they could not find any incriminating photo or video on it."

The agent said authorities would try to get search warrants to look through the flight attendant's phone more deeply and to search his luggage, according to the court documents.

The family has not been given any further update from law enforcement as of the filing of the suit. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Business Insider about the case.

The lawsuit says the teen girl has nightmares, is "worried" about being in public by herself, is "scared" that the accused attendant will try to find her or her family, and is "extremely anxious about the fact the male flight attendant had access to his phone for an entire hour after the incident and may have distributed any photograph or video of her to other people or uploaded it on the internet."

The attendant "invaded" the girl's privacy and "purposefully filmed her for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire," the lawsuit states.

The suit says American Airlines is 'indisputably liable'

American Airlines, the suit alleges, is "indisputably liable for the damage suffered" by the teen because it "negligently failed" to prevent the incident and "negligently failed to take immediate actions after the incident."

Reding told Business Insider that the girl's family "has not heard a single thing from American Airlines" since the alleged incident.

"They haven't checked in on their daughter's well-being. They haven't reached out to them. Nothing," said Reding.

The lawsuit says the airline made the situation worse for the teen by "not immediately confiscating the flight attendant's phone and not immediately notifying the pilots" and "allowed the flight attendant to destroy evidence."

The court papers allege that the accused 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 suit is seeking damages at trial.

Read the original article on Business Insider