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Lawsuits & Litigation

Girl Groped on United Flight Says Airline Didn’t Do Enough

— January 23, 2019

A teenage girl is suing United Airlines, claiming its employees did little to mitigate a 2017 sexual assault.

A new lawsuit claims that United Airlines didn’t take appropriate action after a teenage girls was sexually assaulted on a flight from Seattle to Newark, New Jersey.

Physician Vijaykumar Krishnappa, 29, was recently sentenced to 90 days in jail for the assault.

But, as the Seattle Pi reports, the King County Superior Court complaint claims that United didn’t do enough to stop or mitigate Krishnappa’s unwanted touching. In fact, the lawsuit claims that the airline let the doctor walk off the flight without consequence: Krishnappa was only detained after the girl’s mother called law enforcement.

“The conduct of United in this case is unconscionable from start to finish,” said attorney Samuel Daheim.

Daheim, notes the Seattle Pi, represents the victim and her mother along with attorney Julie Kays.

United, in a publicly released statement, claims it cooperated with a criminal investigation into Krishnappa’s misconduct. The airline also maintains that it let the girl switch seats after reporting that her neighbor had tried groping her.

The assault, recounts the Pi, occurred on July 23rd of 2017. The victim was flying alone for the first time, on her way to a young women’s leadership conference at Princeton University. According to the lawsuit, the girl was assigned a seat near the back of an aircraft. Cabin lights were dimmed before take-off; the teenager, expecting an uneventful flight, thought she’d probably sleep for most of the continental crossing.

She later felt Krishnappa’s fingertips brushing her knee but ignored the contact, assuming the man had probably fallen asleep.

However, the physician’s hands continued moving upward, toward her thigh, navel and genitals. Feeling “trapped and afraid,” the girl kept quiet until Krishnappa tried slipping his fingers under her waistband. That’s when the teenager confronted the man and called a flight attendant for assistance.

Krishnappa, visiting the United States on a medical fellowship, has been banned from flying United for life. He was also sentenced to serve 90 days in jail. Image via estableman/ Public domain.

The lawsuit alleges that a flight attendant simply scolded Krishnappa, telling him “not cool, dude,” before moving the teenager several rows ahead.

Four hours later, Krishnappa was allowed to disembark without further inquiry. Daheim says the physician’s unimpeded escape constitutes wrongdoing, as United has a legal obligation to report any in-flight assaults.

In a statement, United said, “The safety and well-being of our customers is our top priority. Our customer was immediately moved to a different seat when the flight attendant was made aware of the issue. We fully cooperated with law enforcement’s investigation and the perpetrator has been permanently banned from flying United.”

Krishnappa, an Indian national doing a medical fellowship in the United States, pled guilty to assault last year.

The Seattle Pi notes that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with U.S. prosecutors, encourage any passengers to report any sexual assault they witness or suffer aboard an airplane. In August, the FBI stated that reports of in-flight sexual assaults are up 30% in the past four years.


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