A mother from Oregon has won a small claims settlement of $3,500 against American Airlines for “breach of contract” and “negligent infliction of emotional distress” after a flight attendant allegedly harassed her over the seating of her twin infants during a flight. Erika Hamilton, a lawyer, was traveling with her 18-month-old daughters from Portland to Tallahassee with a layover in Dallas. Hamilton stated that she had purchased tickets for one daughter to sit in her lap and the other in a seat, which followed American Airlines’ policy at the time. However, she claims that she was “belittled and harassed” by a flight attendant for doing something that was allowed and already difficult – flying alone with two young children. American Airlines did not respond to requests for comment.
According to the complaint filed to the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon, the conflict occurred during the layover flight. Hamilton alleges that a flight attendant approached her to question the safety of her seating arrangement for the children, claiming it was against FAA and airline policy for one daughter to fly without a car seat. Hamilton tried to refute this by showing the rules, but eventually, another passenger offered to hold one of the twins. Hamilton felt that this was the only option, although she believed it put her child’s safety at risk. The flight attendant reportedly apologized midway through the flight.
Hamilton filed a report with the airline in February, and the flight attendant also filed her own report. In the airline’s report, the flight attendant expressed concern for the safety of the children, claiming Hamilton was having difficulty handling them. However, Hamilton disputes the accuracy of the flight attendant’s report.
After being offered only a $75 voucher for a refund, Hamilton decided to take the matter to small claims court. In April, she filed a lawsuit seeking $3,500 in damages. She stated that she took the case to court because there is little remedy for the “little guy” when a corporation essentially steals from you. Hamilton believes American Airlines sold her a ticket but refused to let her use it because they did not understand the terms and conditions of their own contract.
During the trial, two other passengers testified that the flight attendant’s claims were false. American Airlines filed a Motion for Summary Judgement, arguing that Hamilton could not meet the elements of her claims and that crew members have the right to deny people from flying “for any reason,” which does not breach any contract.
Hamilton emphasized the importance of standing up to big companies that feel they can get away with such actions. She highlighted how American Airlines chose to take the case through a trial, hiring a private attorney, which must have cost them tens of thousands of dollars. The outcome of the trial resulted in Hamilton winning the settlement.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY and was written by Kathleen Wong, a travel reporter based in Hawaii. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.