Screaming Toddler on an Airplane Leads to Lawsuit


flying with kidsNo one likes to hear a crying toddler on an airplane -- or anywhere for that matter. Some of us feel bad for the toddler (and her parents) and hope everything is okay. Others feel bad for themselves, call it bad luck, and pop on the headphones or take a sleeping pill.

But one disgruntled plane passenger actually had the chutzpah to sue an airline after a screaming 3-year-old boy yelled in her ear -- and the airline paid up.

American tourist Jean Barnard, 67, was boarding a Qantas airplane in Australia when a toddler leaned across the aisle and screamed in her ear as she was finding her seat. Barnard says her ears started bleeding and she became "stone cold deaf." She was helped off the plane and taken to the hospital.

The day after the incident, she allegedly sent this email to a friend:

"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. Then we would have an international incident."

Then she sued. Barnard, who admitted to wearing hearing aids, said the flight crew should have taken precautions to protect passengers against screaming kids. The airline argued that its staff could not be expected to know that the child was going to scream, and there was no evidence that the child was screaming in the terminal or on board the aircraft prior to the scream that allegedly caused the damage.

The case was settled out of court last week. Qantas declined to say if the settlement included payment to Ms. Barnard.

Maybe she's just getting free flights for the rest of her life -- hope there aren't any toddlers on board.

Do you think an airline is responsible for the behavior of toddlers on a flight?


Image via MA1974/Flickr

travel, in the news, discipline


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jeann... jeannesager

Because a toddler is more likely to scream in your ear on an airplane than anywhere else? God forbid she walk into a grocery store. Or a public park. Or a doctor's office. When are people going to realize kids do stuff because they test limits; yes, parents should then correct them, but it's called life.

Pishyah Pishyah

Screaming in a person's ear until their eardrum busts is a bit more than what any of us have experienced.  No, the air line isn't responsible, the parents are.  She should have sued the parents, not the air line.  We can't know our child will scream and it is to be expected on an air plane but IN someone's ear to the point of blood and an ER trip?!?!?  Come on!  She's right, good thing she was so incapacitated because I'd totally expect to see her go after the kid.  I want to know what the parents did, honestly.  I think my natural reaction would be a hand on the child, a slap, a pop, a yell.  If I were the passenger, of course.  If I were the parent, I'd probably be too shocked to do anything.

ARmom ARmom

Wow.  Hope that child got a good spanking for that.  My kids can act up, and yes, they have thrown temper tantrums - but screaming in another person's ear THAT hard?  I wonder if there is more to the story?  Was the kid 'challenged' in any way? Did the woman do anything to 'provoke' the child?  Or was this woman more sensitive to loud noises because of her hearing aid, that a 'normal' scream to us, becomes an explosion to her?  I guess if that happened to me, I'd blame someone too, but as a mom, I feel sorry for the parents.  This is the reason I have yet to travel on a plane with my 4 kids, LOL.

nonmember avatar SKL

It depends on what sort of implied warranty the airline has.  Normal everyday human noises are to be expected.  But at some point, you should not have to worry that a child is going to break your eardrums.  On the other hand, how is the airline to know this would happen, if it's true the child wasn't doing anything like this earlier?  I babysat a little girl who was jealous of her baby brother, and without warning or provocation, she'd go up and scream into his ear at the top of his lungs.  Maybe this kid was like that.  How could the airline control it?

Most likely the airline decided to cut its losses and pay a settlement rather than pay attorneys to fight it out in court (and risk bad publicity).  Besides, they probably had insurance for this type of thing.

But yeah, if I was that kid's mom, my likely reaction would be to pick him up by the hair and wallop his butt.  And apologize profusely and then hide my head under my seat for the rest of the flight.  But then again, if it was my kids, he'd probably know it was a huge risk (to his butt) to try that kind of crap.

firen... firenicecream

I'd like to know the full story. Full stories are rarely ever told. Regardless, an airline cannot predict how a kid will act and they are not responsible for it. Not any more than a restaurant,a store or anyone else would be. The parent definitely should have taken some action (but hey, maybe they did.) There's so many angles to comment on this from.

nonmember avatar Mannie

>> "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. Then we would have an international incident."

Jean Barnard should have been taken off the aircraft and stomped tob death. She still should be.

Sue Rutherford Siegel

I am left wondering if her eardrum would have had more of a problem dealing with the difference in cabin pressure when the plane is ascending or descending. If it ruptured during those times, then she wouldn't be able to get off the plane and seek emergency assistance. She would have been left with swallowing more of the blood than she did by the toddler screaming in her ear.

conse... conservmommy

I don't think the airline should be liable.

As for the toddler screaming, if it was loud enough to cause damage my question is what the hell was his parent doing? This is something that gets on my nerves. I go to a restraunt and I am trying to have dinner with my husband then the kid in the next booth is screaming like crazy. Control your kid. If they cannot behave themselves or you don't want to correct them then don't take them out into public. There is no reason why people shouldn't be able to enjoy dinner because a screaming kid. The reason so many children misbehave is because they are never told that there are expectation for their behavior. My 1 year old understands the finger to the lips with the shhhh and that it means lower your voice.

I know that kids get cranky so when they do don't just leave them in the high chair and let them scream. They have low attention spans. Give them something to do or remove the from the situation.

minni... minnie99q

dear concervmommy...... its an airplane how should she remove her child from the situation??? if you dont like chattering kids or playful kids dont eat a family oriented restruants. i elieve the airline is not responsible and neither re the parents... kids scream so what they are kids... i know a few older eople with hearin aids and when they are in a place with noise they shut them off so they dont have to hear this woman should have done that. my 2 year old twins scream very loudly but i dont think its really possible to rupture an eardrum unless you are already at some sort of risk for it. and then i think her doctor should have told her!!!!!

tazdvl tazdvl

The airline is not responsible.

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