Woman Sexually Assaulted by Former Delta Employee While Asleep on Plane Sues Airline

The employee, who no longer works for the airline, pled guilty to abusive sexual contact in federal court last month

<p>Natnan Srisuwan/Getty</p> Passengers on an airplane

Natnan Srisuwan/Getty

Passengers on an airplane

A woman has filed a lawsuit against Delta Air Lines and a former employee of the company, after she was sexually assaulted during a flight.

The woman, who was 24 at the time, was flying from a Taylor Swift concert in Phoenix to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, on March 20, 2023.

The employee, Duane Brick, who no longer works for the airline, pled guilty to abusive sexual contact in federal court in March 5. Sentencing is scheduled for June 10, and Brick, who was 52 at the time of the incident, faces up to two years in prison.

A Delta spokesperson told PEOPLE in a statement, “While Delta will decline to comment on pending litigation, Delta has zero tolerance for unlawful conduct and will work with law enforcement entities to that end.”

According to a complaint filed in King County, Wash. by the woman’s attorney Mark Lindquist on March 28, she had taken Xanax prior to the flight due to a mild fear of flying. Brick, who sat in the middle seat next to her window seat, identified himself as a Delta employee and seemed to know some of the flight attendants, which “put her at ease,” though she noticed early in the flight that he smelled of alcohol.

The complaint says that the woman “was in and out of consciousness because of Xanax” and “woke up suddenly to Mr. Brick groping her breasts and body and placing her hand on his genitals.”

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<p>George Rose/Getty</p> Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

George Rose/Getty

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

According to Brick’s guilty plea, he “took the hand of the woman seated next to him and placed it on his crotch. The woman appeared to be asleep, and Brick reached under the woman’s shirt and touched her breast.”

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The lawsuit alleges that Delta failed to train its employees and enforce rules around overserving alcohol to passengers.

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“As a common carrier, Delta owes the highest duty of care and has a legal duty to provide airline passengers, including the Plaintiff, with a safe flight that is free from unauthorized and abusive sexual contact from other passengers, including from Delta’s own employees,” the suit states.

It also accuses the airline and Brick of "negligence, gross negligence, and reckless acts and omissions," claiming that as a result of the assault, the victim has experienced "extreme emotional distress, mental anguish, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, fear of flying, physical pain, PTSD, and other personal injuries."

In a recent press release, U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman said the Western District of Washington has continued to see “an alarming increase in sexual abuse cases aboard aircraft.”

“Last August we emphasized that we have zero tolerance for such assaults," Gorman added. “Sadly, we continue to learn of new allegations and are investigating and charging those cases.”

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