American Airlines retreats after blaming a nine-year-old for not seeing a hidden camera in a lavatory


An iPhone is taped to the back of a toilet seat on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Boston, Sept. 2, 2023. Estes Carter Thompson III, an American Airlines flight attendant, pleaded not guilty Monday, May 20, 2024, on charges of trying to secretly video record a 14-year-old female passenger using an airplane bathroom last September. Police have also alleged that Thompson had recordings of four other girls using lavatories on an aircraft where he worked. — Lewis & Llewellyn LLP via AP, File

FORT WORTH, Texas: American Airlines has distanced itself from a court filing in which the carrier said a nine-year-old girl should have noticed there was a camera taped to the seat of an airplane lavatory.

A former flight attendant is accused of luring girls to use the lavatory after taping his iPhone to the toilet seat. The nine-year-old's family flew from Texas to California on American last year and sued the airline after the FBI told them that videos of the girl were found on the flight attendant's phone.

In response to the lawsuit, American said in a court document that it would dispute the family's claim by showing that any injuries the nine-year-old girl suffered were caused by the girl's “own fault and negligence, were proximately caused by (her) use of the compromised lavatory, which she knew or should have known contained a visible and illuminated recording device”.

An American spokesperson said Thursday that outside lawyers working for the company “made an error in this filing”.

“We do not believe this child is at fault, and we take the allegations involving a former team member very seriously,” the spokesperson said.

Lawyers for the airline amended the filing Wednesday in a state district court in Austin, Texas. The new filing is shorter and deletes the accusation that the girl caused her own injuries.

Estes Carter Thompson III, a flight attendant who was later fired by American, pleaded not guilty this week to attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of images of child sexual abuse.

Authorities say Thompson, 37, tried to secretly record video of a 14-year-old girl using the bathroom on a flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Boston, and had recordings of four girls including the nine-year-old using lavatories on earlier flights. He was arrested in January and has been in federal custody ever since.

Thompson is next due in federal court in Boston on July 1. The charges he faces carry maximum sentences of up to 30 and 20 years in prison and fines of up to US$250,000 (RM1.17mil).

The 14-year-old's family is also suing American, which is based in Fort Worth. – AP

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