On January 22, 2013, private individual filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 49 U.S.C. § 40127(a). The plaintiff sued the US and Frontier Airlines. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel and the ACLU, asked the court for compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and any other relief the Court may deem appropriate. The plaintiff claimed that the defendants violated her right to be free of discrimination as a passenger, as well as her right to equal protection and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
On September 11, 2011, the plaintiff was on a flight from Denver to Detroit. She was seated next to two men described as being of South Asian descent. The plaintiff did not know the men or communicate with them in any way throughout the flight. During the flight, the men began to exhibit suspicious behavior and Frontier Airlines was accordingly notified of a potential threat. In reporting this threat, the plaintiff was identified as part of the threat under the suspicion that she may have been traveling with the two men. When the plane landed, armed guards forcefully arrested the plaintiff and moved her to a detention facility in Wayne County, where she was held and searched for approximately four hours. The plaintiff alleged that since the police and TSA officers had no facts connecting her to criminal activity, they must have acted on the perceived ethnicity, national origin, or race of the plaintiff's name. The plaintiff was released without any charges.
On May 20, 2013, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the equal protection claims against the named federal individuals. The Court (Judge Terrence Berg) held that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity and denied the motion to dismiss.
On March 21, 2014, a motion to dismiss Count IV was brought by Defendants Robert Ball, John Brand, Paul Brumley, Nathaniel Devins, and David Lakatos, all of whom are federal law enforcement officials or agents ("Federal Agent Defendants"), and a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings to dismiss Count IV brought by Defendants Jeremy Bohn, Corporal Bradley, Lieutenant M. Wasiukanis, Captain Patrick Driscoll, Mark DeBeau, Officer Grant,Toya Parker, Detective Carmona, and Officer Johnson, who are law enforcement officers of the Wayne County Airport Authority ("WCAA Defendants"). The motions are brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(c), respectively, and both assert that the individual law enforcement defendants are entitled to qualified immunity as to Plaintiff's claims that her arrest and detention on September 11, 2011, was in violation of her rights to Equal Protection. The court denied the motion. (Hebshi v. United States, 12 F. Supp. 3d 1036 (E.D. Mich. 2014))
On July 18, 2014, the court denied a motion submitted by the individual plaintiffs for partial summary judgment as to Counts V and VI. The motion is brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), asserting that the WCAA Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity as to Plaintiff's claim that her arrest, detention, and search were in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights under the United States
Constitution to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The court dismissed the motion. (Hebshi v. United States, 32 F. Supp. 3d 834 (E.D. Mich. 2014), appeal dismissed (Feb. 6, 2015))
Throughout the November and December 2014, several settlement conferences were held between the remaining defendants and the plaintiff--wherein a settlement was reached between the parties.
Under the settlement terms that have been disclosed, the plaintiff will receive $40,000 from the federal government to compensate her for the severe humiliation she suffered. Additionally, under the settlement, Frontier has agreed to amend its employee handbook to more clearly state its zero-tolerance policy on discrimination and to provide all new employees with training on that revision. Frontier also will amend its customer complaint policy to ensure allegations of discrimination are given the appropriate attention. Source: https://www.aclu.org/news/mom-arrested-and-strip-searched-after-911-flight-settles-lawsuit
The federal government provided sworn statements promising that this incident did not land Hebshi on any federal terrorism watch lists. The airport police have similarly provided assurances that no record of the arrest remains.
During the course of litigation, the Wayne County Airport Authority independently implemented changes to its police policies and training that address many of Hebshi's concerns. (https://www.aclu.org/cases/hebshi-v-united-states?redirect=racial-justice/hebshi-v-united-states)Erin Pamukcu - 09/28/2015