Passenger's lawsuit claims American Airlines flight attendant punched him repeatedly in dispute over a drink order

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A passenger is alleging that an American Airlines flight attendant hit him in the face, according to a new lawsuit. (Photo: Getty Images)

A passenger on an American Airlines flight has filed a lawsuit accusing a cabin attendant of an extreme physical assault that he claims caused a traumatic brain injury and severe headaches.

Gregory Lagana was on Flight 1798 from Charlotte, N.C., to Philadelphia on Jan. 5, 2018, when the alleged assault took place. The lawsuit, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, according to USA Today, claims that the flight attendant pinned Lagana’s right arm before repeatedly punching him in the face and on the back of the head. 

Lagana claims he received neurological, neurosurgical and chiropractic treatments at Princeton Medical Center in New Jersey for injuries that included “scalp hematomas, abrasions, swelling, redness, bruising and defensive wounds” to his hand. The lawsuit calls the injuries “serious and permanent” and claims that they are compounded by “mental and emotional” anguish. In his complaint, Lagana say his “injuries were caused by an unexpected or unusual event.” 

The incident allegedly began when an argument between Lagana and the flight attendant over a drink order escalated into a full-blown fight, his attorney, Edward P. Capozzi of the firm Brach Eichler, told Yahoo Lifestyle. The lawyer claims that no alcohol was involved, and that Lagana had simply ordered a Coke with ice — but the attendant tried to give him an entire can of soda instead. “They want back and forth, and Lagana said, ‘Just give me the f***ing ice!’” Eichler said, noting that his client had been frustrated by multiple flight delays that day.

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Eichler says the flight attendant wagged his finger in Lagana’s face and ordering him to watch his language. When Lagana tried to push his hand away, the man allegedly dug his nails into Lagana’s hand and started punching him in the face. Lagana, whose seatbelt was apparently secured at the time of the incident, curled up in a protective position. According to Eichler, that allowed the flight attendant to inflict blows on the back of the man’s head.

When the flight landed, EMS workers boarded the plane to tend to Lagana. FBI agents later interviewed both men, according to Eichler. Lagana — a professional in the medical industry who was recovering from a stroke — recounted his version of events, but the flight attendant told authorities a different story. He claims that he never beat Lagana and that the passenger went into the bathroom and assaulted himself, according to Eichler. “You can see bumps and welts on this guy’s face,” the attorney told Yahoo Lifestyle. “You see bleeding from where the flight attendant dug his nails and blood on his shirt. There’s no way he did that to himself.”

Eichler said the flight attendant had no injuries that he knows of, and that he isn’t aware of any video of the assault — only post-assault video, which he declined to share. No witnesses have come forward, he said, but he looks forward to obtaining a passenger list and hopes someone seated nearby will speak up. “We’d love to interview them,” he said.

The lawsuit claims that Lagana “was not involved in any wrongdoing that jeopardized the safety of the aircraft.” It holds that American Airlines, which was reportedly issued a summons on Monday, is liable for about $160,000.

Matt Miller, a spokesperson for American Airlines, told Yahoo Lifestyle that the carrier is “reviewing the lawsuit and the details of the flight.”

Yahoo Lifestyle also reached out to Lagana’s attorney for further comment.

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