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American Airlines claimed a child was at fault for being secretly recorded in a restroom. It has now changed its response

American Airlines claimed a child was at fault for being secretly recorded in a restroom. It has now changed its response
1 month 3 weeks 10 hours ago Thursday, May 23 2024 May 23, 2024 May 23, 2024 2:25 PM May 23, 2024 in News - AP National
Source: CNN
American Airlines seen in May 2023 claimed a child was at fault for being secretly recorded in a restroom and it’s now changing its response. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource
Originally Published: 22 MAY 24 22:12 ET
Updated: 23 MAY 24 15:21 ET

(CNN) — After American Airlines in a legal response blamed a 9-year-old girl for using an airplane bathroom that had a recording device allegedly placed there by a former employee, the airline has changed its response.

The company was responding to a civil lawsuit filed against American Airlines claiming the girl, listed as Mary Doe, was “secretly filmed while using the airplane toilet” during an American Airlines flight in January 2023.

A former American Airlines flight attendant, Estes Carter Thompson, 37, who federal investigators say secretly recorded several minors while they used the bathroom on different American Airlines flights last year, is also named in the lawsuit filed in Texas. The former employee is facing federal child sexual exploitation charges.

The incident involving the 9-year-old occurred during a flight from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles, California, the lawsuit states.

In a filing Monday, American Airlines initially argued that the girl was at fault and negligent because she used a lavatory “she knew or should have known contained a visible and illuminated recording device.”

In response to CNN’s request for comment on the filing, American Airlines said the filing was made in error by outside counsel retained by the airline’s insurance company.

“The included defense is not representative of our airline, and we have directed it be amended this morning,” American Airlines said in a statement Wednesday. “We do not believe this child is at fault and we take the allegations involving a former team member very seriously.”

The airline’s amended response filed Wednesday in Travis County district court removes the defense that Mary Doe was at fault for being filmed in the plane’s bathroom.

Defenses by American Airlines’ lawyers stating that their conduct did not contribute to the alleged injuries were also removed along with language that claims the airline is “not liable to Plaintiff because it had no legal duty to disclose any of the information not disclosed.”

Attorney Paul Llewellyn, who is representing the girl and her family, said he believes American Airlines’ change in direction was in response to public backlash.

“To claim that they filed the ‘wrong’ answer is simply not credible, but the bell cannot be unwrung [sic],” Llewellyn told CNN in a statement Wednesday. “They should never have taken such an outrageous position in the first place.”

Llewellyn called American Airlines’ legal strategy “depraved” and “shocking.”

“Instead of taking responsibility for this awful event, American Airlines is actually blaming our daughter for being filmed,” the child’s mother said in a statement. “How in good conscience could they even make such a suggestion?”

Ex-flight attendant had videos of several minors, DOJ says

Last month, Thompson was indicted in Massachusetts on federal charges including sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography in connection to an incident involving a 14-year-old on an American Airlines flight bound for Boston, according to the criminal complaint.

While investigating that incident, federal prosecutors in Massachusetts say they uncovered additional videos on Thompson’s iCloud account that show four additional minors – including a 9-year-old – using the bathroom on American Airlines flights between January and August 2023, according to the Department of Justice.

Parents of the 14-year-old, who is being referred to as Jane Doe, also filed a complaint against American Airlines in North Carolina after she was filmed using the airplane toilet during a flight from Charlotte, North Carolina.

“American Airlines’ conduct immediately following the incident, including not immediately confiscating the flight attendant’s phone and not immediately notifying the pilots, allowed the flight attendant to destroy evidence, and exacerbated the harm suffered by Plaintiff,” the complaint said.

According to the complaint, Jane Doe has suffered significant emotional distress and damages as a result of the airlines’ conduct and now seeks relief.

CNN reached out to attorneys for Jane Doe for comment.

Thompson was arraigned on Monday and is scheduled to reappear in court on July 1 in Boston, Massachusetts.

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