Airline Fires Attorney Who Blamed 9-Year-Old For Flight Attendant Incident

By Jason Hall

May 29, 2024

Photo: U.S. Attorney's Office

American Airlines has fired the legal team that claimed a 9-year-old should've known she was being filmed by a flight attendant while using a plane bathroom, the company confirmed to the New York Post on Wednesday (May 29).

An outside law firm claimed the victim's injuries were caused by her "own fault and negligence" and that she "knew or should have known" that the airplane bathroom she used "contained a visible and illuminated recording device."

"We do not believe this child is at fault and we take the allegations involving a former team member very seriously," American Airlines said in its statement to the New York Post.

The counsel's claim was made in legal papers filed last Monday (May 20) as part of an ongoing lawsuit the girl's family filed against the airline. Estes Carter Thompson III, 37, of Charlotte, was arrested for allegedly filming several girls between the ages of 7 and 14 during a span of several months in 2023, according to federal prosecutors.

The attorney, however, claimed in the legal filing that the 9-year-old should've been aware that a device was recording her at the time of the incident.

“Any injuries or illnesses alleged to have been sustained by Plaintiff, Mary Doe, were proximately caused by Plaintiff’s own fault and negligence, were proximately caused by Plaintiff’s use of the compromised lavatory, which she knew or should have known contained a visible and illuminated recording device,” one of the various legal defenses offered by American Airlines’ lawyers stated.

Paul Llewellyn, an attorney representing the girl's family, said they were "absolutely livid" by the airlines' claim.

“I was absolutely shocked and I think it’s outrageous,” Llewellyn told the New York Post. “The idea that American Airlines and its lawyers would blame a 9-year-old girl for being filmed, in my opinion, just smacks of desperation and depravity.

“What on Earth is American Airlines thinking by adopting such a strategy?”

The 9-year-old victim's parents claim the incident took place during a flight to Los Angeles in January 2023, prior to another incident that led to his arrest.

“It felt like we were living in a nightmare when the FBI showed up on our doorstep to tell us that our daughter had been secretly filmed by an American Airlines flight attendant,” the victim's family previously said in a statement to the Daily Mail.

“Since then, our daughter has struggled with fear and anxiety. We are doing everything we can to support her during this traumatic time,” they added. “An important part of our family’s healing is making sure that the flight attendant and American Airlines are held accountable for what happened to our daughter. We hope that this lawsuit is the first step in making sure nothing like this ever happens to another family.”

Thompson was arrested on January 18 and charged with attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor. The former flight attendant allegedly filmed a 14-year-old while working on the crew of a flight from Charlotte to Boston in September 2023, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts announced in a news release.

Thompson allegedly approached the girl as she waited for an occupied bathroom in the main cabin, at which point he escorted her to a first-class bathroom before saying he needed to wash his hands and claiming that the toilet seat was broken. The girl entered the bathroom shortly after and noticed red stickers on the underside of an open toilet seat lid stating, “INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT” and “REMOVE FROM SERVICE,” according to prosecutors.

Authorities found 11 stickers similar to the ones spotted by the girl inside Thompson's suitcase and a search of his iCloud account found four recordings of children between the ages of seven and 14, including the 9-year-old victim, all of whom were using the bathroom on airplanes, reported to be filmed between January and August 2023.

The 37-year-old was "immediately withheld from service" and hasn't worked for American Airlines since the incident took place, the company said in a statement to CNN following his arrest.

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