Woman Wins $27.5 Million in Racial Profile Suit Against Southwest Airlines

April 13, 2006

A Texas jury awarded $27.5 million (euro22.72 million) in damages to a woman of Iranian descent who said she was racially profiled when Southwest Airlines Co. accused her of assaulting a flight attendant.

Samantha Carrington of Santa Barbara, California, won her case Friday after suing the Dallas-based airline for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Federal authorities arrested her in 2003 after her Houston-to-Los Angeles flight made a scheduled stop in El Paso. She was never charged with a crime.

According to court records, three flight attendants said Carrington, a naturalized citizen from Iran, became verbally abusive, grabbed a flight attendant’s arm and threatened to go to the cockpit if the captain was not summoned.

Carrington, 54, said that the flight attendants were lying and that she was the one mistreated.

“In the evidence it came out that one of the flight attendants stated that Ms. Carrington reminded her of a terrorist, and in our views she was the victim of profiling stereotypes and discrimination,” her lawyer, Enrique Moreno, told the El Paso Times.

Southwest will appeal the verdict, a spokeswoman said.

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