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Robert Wolf
Robert Wolf
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$27.5 million verdict against Southwest in the apparently not-so-friendly skies

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A jury awarded $27.5 million in damages to a woman of Iranian descent who alleged she was racially profiled when Southwest Airlines accused her of assaulting a flight attendant and interfering with a flight crew.

Samantha Carrington, a California woman, won in the civil case Friday after suing the Dallas-based carrier for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. She was arrested in 2003 after her Houston-to-Los Angeles flight stopped in El Paso.

“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 said.

A Southwest spokeswoman said the decision will be appealed.

“We certainly don’t agree with this particular verdict,” spokeswoman Beth Harbin said. “The verdict was not based on all the available facts because those facts were not presented to the jury for their consideration.”

This is unlikely to be a popular verdict, but a jury, upon hearing the facts presented, obviously agreed that the flight attendant acted inappropriately in this particular circumstance.

It is often the case that juries do not get the hear each and every potential piece of evidence in any given trial. For reasons such as questions concerning the relevance, reliability, or authenticity of evidence, Judges can keep juries from ever seeing/hearing about certain matters in Court. These are tough decisions and in fact can, in some instances, create grounds for an appeal of a jury verdict if one party believes it was wrongfully deprived of an opportunity to present certain types of evidence.