An American tourist has received an out-of-court settlement from Qantas after claiming that a child’s screaming left her with permanent hearing damage, despite being partially deaf prior to the alleged incident.
Jean Barnard claimed she has been left partially deaf after a three-year-old boy screamed in her ear before a flight from Alice Springs to Darwin in Australia in 2009.
The 67-year-old business consultant claims that the toddler’s scream was so loud her ears began to bleed. She had to be helped off the plane and taken to hospital, and was forced to cut short her holiday.
The boy allegedly leaned back over his armrest towards her and screamed so loud that her ears began to bleed, leaving her “stone cold deaf”.
“The pain was so excruciating that I didn’t even know I was deaf,” Barnard said in her statement to the court.
She said had been left with permanent hearing damage and sued the airline for physical and mental suffering, medical expenses and loss of income.
Qantas Airlines argued in court that it was not responsible for a “small child’s random, impulsive scream” because it was not an “unexpected or unusual event and not related in any way to the operation of the aircraft”.
The Australian flag carrier also argued that Mrs Barnard had a hearing problem before she arrived in Australia, including wearing hearing aids.
Counsel for Qantas told the court: “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 airline also produced an email Mrs Barnard sent to her travel agent, in which she said: “I guess we are simply fortunate that my eardrum was exploding and I was swallowing blood.
“Had it not been for that, I would have dragged that kid out of his mother’s arms and stomped him to death.”
Qantas and Barnard reached a confidential out of court settlement that neither side are allowed to disclose.