American Airlines has swapped out the law firm representing them after the lawyers suggested a 9-year-old girl was at fault for not noticing a camera phone taped to the seat in an airplane bathroom.

The airline confirmed on Friday that Wilson Elser law firm is no longer representing them in the lawsuit filed by the young girl’s family. American has now hired Kelly Hart & Hallman, a Fort Worth Texas-based firm with a history of working with the airline.

This change in legal representation comes after Wilson Elser claimed in a court document that any harm to the girl could be attributed to her “fault and negligence” for using the bathroom, “which she knew or should have known contained a visible and illuminated recording device.”

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FILE - In this photo provided by the law firm Lewis & Llewellyn LLP, 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)


An iPhone had been taped to the back of the toilet seat allegedly to secretly record
(
Lewis & Llewellyn LLP)

A former flight attendant for American, Estes Carter Thompson III, is accused of enticing girls to use the bathroom after taping his iPhone to the toilet seat and claiming that the seat was broken. Thompson, who has since been fired by American, pleaded not guilty this week to charges of attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child sexual abuse images.

The family of the 9-year-old sued American in a state court in Austin, Texas, after the FBI informed them that videos of their daughter were discovered on the flight attendant’s phone. Paul Llewellyn, a lawyer for the girl’s family, said: “With the benefit of this new legal representation, we hope that American Airlines will now take a fresh look at the case and finally take some measure of responsibility for what happened to our client.”

Mr Llewellyn is also the legal representative for a 14-year-old’s family who are suing American Airlines in a North Carolina federal court over the same flight attendant’s alleged misconduct. Wilson Elser has yet to respond to requests for comment. The 14-year-old alerted her parents after noticing a phone taped to the back of the toilet seat on an American Airlines flight, who then notified the authorities. Her discovery prompted the arrest of Thompson, 37, a male flight attendant from Charlotte, North Carolina.






The incidents happened on American Airlines flights


The incidents happened on American Airlines flights
(
NurPhoto via Getty Images)

An investigation determined the man had video footage of at least four other minor females on his phone. Allegedly, the teen got up from her seat in the midst of traveling with her parents and found that the bathroom nearest her was out of order. Thompson, then working as a flight attendant, directly escorted her to another bathroom.

When the teen entered, she found multiple stickers saying ‘out of order’ and a phone taped upside down with the camera and flash exposed sticking out from underneath the plasters. The stickers said: “INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT,” “REMOVE FROM SERVICE” and “SEAT BROKEN” in handwriting. The girl took a picture of the back of the toilet on her own phone and went back to her seat.

She alleges that Thompson immediately went into the bathroom after her. The girl’s father confronted Thompson, who allegedly locked himself in the bathroom with the phone for 5 minutes before descent. Her parents also told the crew and captain, who notified law enforcement on the ground.

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Police said that in the time that Thompson was locked in a room with his phone, he wiped it, restoring factory settings. But the incident prompted an investigation and police searched Thompson’s suitcase, and found it contained a number of the same handwritten stickers the teen photographed in the bathroom.

A search of Thompson’s iCloud revealed the videos of four more juveniles, ages 7, 9, 11, and 14. They also allegedly found AI-generated images of child abuse. About 40 images of a sleeping unaccompanied child were also on the computer.

Thompson was arrested in Lynchburg, Virginia. American Airlines said that Thompson was fired immediately and has not worked since the incident. “The deeply disturbing conduct alleged here is something no parent or child should ever have to worry about when they travel,” acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy said in a statement.

“Mr. Thompson allegedly used his position to prey on and surreptitiously record innocent children, including unaccompanied minors.” Thompson faces at least 15-30 years if convicted for attempted sexual exploitation of children and at least five – 20 years in prison for possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor.

Both charges include at least five years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, and restitution.

Article source: https://airlines.einnews.com/article/714663469/OYqhIDBfnLnPxuyX?ref=rss&ecode=vaZAu9rk30b8KC5H

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