Lawsuit: Bad Move From Airline Sent Man to Jail

'If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2022 6:08 PM CDT
Lawyer: Man Spent 17 Days in Jail After Airline Made Mistake
Palmer says the warrants never would have been issued if American had provided a full list of names as police requested.   (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File)

An Arizona man says a mistake by American Airlines led to a nightmarish 17-day ordeal that he's still not fully recovered from. According to a lawsuit filed against the airline by Michael Lowe, American wrongly identified him to police as a person seen on surveillance video breaking into a duty-free shop at Dallas-Fort Worth airport in May 2020, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. More than a year later, Lowe was visiting friends in New Mexico when somebody called police about a disturbance at a Fourth of July party. Officers took the names of everybody present—and arrested Lowe when they found there were two outstanding Texas warrants out for him, including one for felony burglary.

Lowe was taken to the Quay County Jail without being told what he was accused of, and his "confusion was profound," the lawsuit states. Since he had only been at DFW to change planes on his way from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Reno, Nevada, he didn't know how he could be accused of a crime in Texas. He spent 17 days in exceptionally grim conditions in a general population quarantine pod at the jail, alongside inmates accused of violent crimes, the lawsuit says. After his release, he tried to find out what had happened, but it didn't become clear until he hired a lawyer. Attorney Scott Palmer found out that when airport police saw surveillance video of the break-in suspect boarding the flight to Reno, they asked the airline to provide a list of all the passengers.

Instead, Palmer says the airline sent police only Lowe's name, though he does not closely resemble the man seen in surveillance footage, USA Today reports. "If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone," Palmer says. The charges were dismissed after officials compared Lowe's mugshot to the surveillance images. Lowe is still dealing with the effects of spending 17 days in a "constant state of fear of confrontation, physical abuse, or sexual victimization," the lawsuit states. It says Lowe—an outdoorsman who works as a tour guide at the Grand Canyon—also suffered substantial economic damages and had to repay $6,000 to each of five people who had booked a two-week tour of Alaska. (Read more wrongful arrest stories.)

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