A woman is suing Southwest Airlines Co., alleging she and her husband were ordered off a jet at Los Angeles International Airport because of a mask issue in May and that she was subsequently injured when the same employee yanked her cell phone from one of her hands.
Karina Isabel Velasquez’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges battery, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Monday.
A Southwest representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Velasquez and her husband, Blake Harrison, were passengers on Southwest Flight 3225 that was docked at LAX on May 19 prior to departure to Las Vegas, the suit states. They wore masks, carried proof of vaccination against the coronavirus and had three extra masks in their carry-on baggage, the suit states.
While seated, the plaintiffs were approached by a flight attendant who told them Harrison’s face mask did not meet Southwest’s passenger standards, according to the suit. Velasquez and her husband replied that they had tested negative for the COVID-19 virus and offered to show proof, according to their complaint.
The couple also showed the flight attendant their three additional masks and offered to either switch Harrison’s facial covering or to wear two masks, the suit states. However, the flight attendant nonetheless ordered that Velaquez and Harrison leave the plane, so the couple gathered their belongings and walked toward the plane’s front exit, the suit states.
Velasquez’s phone had a ring-shaped grip attached to the back of the device that prevented her from accidentally dropping it, the suit states, adding that her middle finger on her right hand was inside the ring-shaped grip.
As Velasquez and her husband left the plane, the flight attendant “suddenly and violently grabbed and removed plaintiff’s phone out of her hand,” leaving Velasquez with a severely sprained wrist and cuts on one thumb, the suit states. Velasquez recovered her phone, went to the terminal and spoke with a Southwest supervisor and LAPD officers about the alleged actions of the flight attendant and also filed a police report, according to the suit.
Velasquez has twice-weekly physical therapy sessions to treat her sprained wrist and her doctor said she may never have a 100% recovery, the suit states. The personal trainer, acrobat and exotic dancer has been unable to work due to her injury, resulting a significant lost income, the suit states.
Before the alleged harm caused by the flight attendant, Velasquez, the victim of a prior assault, underwent long-term counseling, the suit states.