A negligence lawsuit claiming Spirit Airlines fed alcohol to rowdy female passengers and then failed to defuse a subsequent cabin brawl has crashed and burned.
After a 12-day trial that ended Thursday in Los Angeles, a jury decided the carrier was not responsible for the violent March 2016 clash that was caught on video and quickly went viral.
The lawsuit, announced in New York last year by three Delaware women and their plaintiff’s lawyer Gloria Allred, claimed Spirit’s flight attendants had an obligation to act when the problem passengers exhibited aggressive behavior such as blasting music and waving a boom box in the air during the flight from Baltimore to Los Angeles.
When the flight landed at LAX, the intoxicated passengers allegedly began shouting offensive and racist remarks at the Delaware women and made the first move in a violent scuffle, Allred said.
The tail end of the incident was filmed by other passengers, showing the women slapping and grabbing each other over seatbacks.
“The credibility of plaintiffs’ account of the events was repeatedly challenged through the testimony of numerous witnesses, including plaintiffs, the flight attendants, and other passengers,” Spirit’s lawyer Richard Lazenby told the Daily News Tuesday.
Ultimately, he said, “the court applied California law, which prohibits liability based solely on serving alcohol.”
“Plaintiffs needed to prove that their version of their attackers’ behavior in conjunction with the flight attendants’ failure to monitor or curb such behavior rendered an attack foreseeable, which the jury rejected by their verdict,” he said.
Allred’s partner Nathan Goldberg called the three Delaware plaintiffs “innocent victims” who did nothing wrong.
He said after the plane landed, federal authorities investigated and charged the main aggressor with both assault and indecent exposure for allegedly exposing her breasts on the plane.
The attacker was subsequently convicted of the assault, he said.
“We argued that given the bizarre and inappropriate behaviors of the attackers on the airplane by playing loud music and waving a boom box in the air that the flight attendants had an obligation to de-escalate the situation in accordance with Spirit’s policies and procedures and that their failure to do so was negligence,” Goldberg said Tuesday.
“Spirit argued that since the attack occurred after the plane landed and was preceded by racial statements that the airline was not responsible because they could not have anticipated that an attack would occur,” he explained.
“We are proud of our clients for seeking justice in this unprecedented case and for bringing their case to a jury,” he said.
Plaintiffs Tykisha Diodato, Lisa Zampella and Danielle Fonda-Thomas appeared together at the New York press conference last year when they announced their complaint and described the nightmare flight.
“I am upset that the Spirit Airlines failed to protect us, disregarded our safety, and instead continued to serve the women in front of us alcoholic beverages even though they were clearly intoxicated and behaving aggressively,” Diodato said in a statement at the time.
“The flight attendants failed to take control of the situation before it got to the point where we were physically attacked, humiliated, and escorted off the plane as if we were criminals,” Fonda-Thomas added in her own statement.