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For decades transportation by airplane has been a necessity for travelers and business people alike. Those who travel often have likely accumulated stories over the years, some funny — some not, of the various incidents that can occur while traveling: like lost luggage, delayed flights, drunk pilots, intolerable weather, etc.

How about incidents of sexual assault?  Must be a rarity you say. Wrong! The evidence shows there could be hundreds of incidents of assault and battery on flights around the world each year.

A woman says she awoke on an overnight Delta flight to a man squeezing her crotch and then leaning on top of her as she struggled to get out of her aisle seat.

Allison Dvaladze ran and frantically asked flight attendants for help, she said, but was told such assaults are quite common and to just return to her seat as if nothing happened.

Nearly two years after she says she watched the man walk off the plane unhindered, Dvaladze sued Delta Air Lines in federal court Tuesday — unsatisfied with the frequent flier miles she says the airline offered for the inconvenience of a sexual assault.

She is seeking unspecified damages for gross negligence leading to injury, medical bills, physical and emotional pain and humiliation.

Dvaladze, who lives outside Seattle, was bound for Amsterdam and then East Africa on April 15, 2016. She was going to help run a breast cancer program for developing countries there, the Seattle Times reported.

A few hours into the flight, as the cabin lights dimmed, she drifted off to sleep with headphones in her ears.

She said she awoke to find her seat-mate’s hand between her legs. The man continued to sexually assault Dvaldze despite her repeated protestations for him to stop at once. Dvaldze eventually broke free and complained to the flight crew who, shockingly, told her to let it go and that “gropings” on flights were commonplace. That’s right, Delta crew members said it was no big deal. Then to make matters worse, the flight crew did nothing to report the sexual assault.

When the plane landed, no police were waiting at the jet bridge.

“The man who had assaulted her walked off the plane as if nothing had happened,” the Seattle Times wrote.

To this day, Dvaladze said, Delta has not revealed his name.

She emailed the airline from Nairobi to ask what its investigation had turned up, she said, and was eventually told Delta had no record of an assault.

In the lawsuit, Dvaladze claims crew members told her they would be more concerned if she were a child, but that in-seat gropings were a regular thing. Unbelievably, the data supports that troubling conclusion.

The Seattle Times reported the FBI investigates several dozen assault claims each year, but many more go unreported. The president of the Association of Flight Attendants — who said she had been groped herself — told PBS a survey found 20 percent of attendants have been told of an assault on their plane, suggesting there are thousands of such incidents.

Victims of sexual assault may be able to sue an airline for damages such as medical bills, emotional trauma, and pain and suffering. If the airlines knew of such criminal conduct and let it occur anyway then punitive damages could be available.

Since 1976 The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. has been protecting the rights of sexual assault victims. If you or a loved one have been assaulted on a plane please contact our office for a free confidential consultation with Nicholas G. Matassini, a board certified trial lawyer who is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell. Based in Tampa, Florida we handle personal injury, civil litigation, and criminal defense in all counties throughout the Tampa Bay area.


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