Delta Sued Over Scuffle With Sick Passenger

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – A Delta Airlines passenger has sued the carrier, claiming its flight crew assaulted him in midflight – claims that add to the slew of airline-assault scandals in recent months.

Atef Bandary sued Delta on May 26, claiming negligent supervision, emotional distress, assault and battery during a flight from Atlanta to Palm Springs, California, in 2015.

According to the 14-page lawsuit, the flight crew refused to accommodate Bandary’s medical needs by denying him water and a light snack, which were required for him to take prescribed medicine. As it was urgent that he take his medicine, Bandary says he did so without food or water – which then caused diarrhea.

Bandary says a flight attendant told him he could not use the lavatory and ordered him to return to his seat.

“Bandary told Delta’s lead flight attendant that he had diarrhea and HIV, and insisted that he needed to use the lavatory and could not return to his seat until he did,” Bandary says in his complaint.

But instead of accommodating him, Bandary says the lead flight attendant “called the Delta pilots on the flight deck to report a disturbance.” The pilots enlisted the help of a passenger who was also an armed law enforcement officer to restrain Bandary, dislocating his shoulder in the process, according to the complaint.

Bandary says he pants fell down in the ensuing struggle, fully exposing him to his fellow passengers.

“Bandary pleaded with Delta flight attendants to pull up his pants, but for a period of minutes, they refused, because he has HIV,” Bandary says in his complaint.

Once a flight attendant pulled up his pants, however, Bandary says he soiled himself. Pilots then diverted the flight to Salt Lake City, where Bandary says he was forcefully removed from the plane by police and informed by a Delta airlines agent that he was banned from the carrier.

Bandary says in the months that followed was indicted on criminal charges of assaulting a flight attendant and interfering with the duties performed by the flight crew. After hiring a lawyer and defending himself at trial, Bandary says he was acquitted unanimously by a federal jury.

According to the lawsuit, Bandary was “wrongfully targeted by Delta flight attendants because he is gay, HIV-positive, a naturalized citizen, and has a dark complexion”.

He adds that during his trial, Delta employees attempted to justify their abusive actions by claiming he posed a threat to them because he is HIV-positive and he “looked like” a terrorist because of his dark complexion.

“HIV is a deadly disease,” Bandary quotes one Delta witness as saying. “I believe Mr. Bandary could look like [a terrorist], yes … Darker skin, dark hair.”

Bandary seeks general, special, punitive, exemplary and compensatory damages. He is represented by Kimberly Barone of South Carolina, who did not return an email seeking comment.

A phone call seeking comment from Delta’s press department resulted in a 20-minute hold with no answer to the request.

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