Toddler’s Scream Leads to Airline Lawsuit

  • Share
  • Read Later
Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/cultura/Corbis

Scoring an airline seat anywhere in the vicinity of a toddler is everybody’s idea of the short straw. Usually, people put it down to bad luck or cheap fares, but there’s always an outlier.

In this story, it’s Jean Barnard, an American tourist who sued Qantas when a toddler leaned across the aisle and screamed in her ear as she was finding her seat on a flight from Alice Springs to Darwin in January of 2009.

Barnard, 67, who claims the toddler’s scream made her ear bleed and caused permanent hearing loss, was helped off the plane and taken to Alice Springs hospital. Back in the U.S., she sued Qantas, claiming its flight crew was negligent in failing to take precautions to protect passengers and that she had suffered permanent hearing loss. “The pain was so excruciating that I didn’t even know I was deaf,” she said in her deposition.

Qantas’ legal team countered that  its staff could hardly be expected to know a child was going to scream.”Plaintiff’s injuries, if any, were caused by the arbitrary and volitional act of a three-year-old child. Flight attendants cannot predict when children aboard an aircraft are about to scream. There is no evidence that the child was screaming in the terminal, or on board the aircraft prior to the particular scream which allegedly caused the damage.”

The case was settled out of court last week, but not before some of Barnard’s more colorful emails were brought to light, as well as the fact she wore hearing aids before she encountered the thunderer from  Down Under. “I guess we are simply fortunate that my eardrum was exploding and I was swallowing blood,” she allegedly wrote. “Had it not been for that, I would have dragged that kid out of his mother’s arms and stomped him to death.”

We’re guessing Barnard doesn’t get asked to do a lot of babysitting. (See the most annoying airline fees.)