After more than a year of legal tussling, an out of court confidential agreement has been reached between Qantas and this US passenger.
Her lawyer argued Qantas was negligent because the plane's cabin and cockpit crew failed "to take all the necessary precautions to prevent the accident that resulted" in her "injury".
Qantas' lawyers, on the other hand, argued that flight attendants cannot predict when children aboard an aircraft are about to scream.
It was announced to the judge handling the case that a truce had been reached and the parties had "entered into a confidential settlement". (SHM article
What interested Well-Being Australia chairman Mark Tronson was the 'generic' comment that staff cannot predict when an infant will scream, or, for that matter when any other passenger may do something totally unexpected.
This comment can be extended to a host of issues associated with customer service. It brings into focus the legal nightmare of 'duty of care' and what it means.
M V Tronson immediately thought of many other examples where it would be very difficult to predict what might happen; and nearly impossible for those 'in charge; to engage in any 'duty of care' that might have prevented this.
If a motor vehicle travelling in the opposite direction suddenly veers to the wrong side of the road and causes a head on collision, what could have been done? It is impossible to have concrete barrier median strips on every Australian road.
When setting oneself into an office chair to start work, what if it somehow it slides and you end up on the floor and damage your back? At what point is the 'duty of care' due to your behaviour, or to the type of chair purchased by your employer, or 'cannot be determined'?
In a situation perhaps more suited to a movie, what if a cinema viewer is enjoying the humour of the movie so much that the drink in his hand slips and spills over the person in the forward seat who happens to be allergic to the preservative in the drink and suffers a severe reaction, almost losing his life? Where does the 'duty of care' lie? What about the film production company that produced the hilarious movie, or the Cinema itself if its seats were too close together?
There are literally thousands upon thousands of scenarios where it is nearly impossible to provide the 'duty of care' to cater for every contingency. Such things are quite often out of our hands. The courts face very difficult decisions in many situations.
In the Gospel of Luke we're told that Jesus was asked something akin to a duty of care question. Cited was a construction company that was engaged in building a multi storey tower.
Whatever happened in this situation, whether it was a lean mix of cement, or that the scaffolding wasn't set up correctly, or an engineering design fault, we're not told, but we do know that eighteen workers lost their lives when it toppled over.
Jesus was asked this 'duty of care' issue in relation to a religious question as to whether they had sinned in some way for such a calamity to have occurred. Jesus answer in Luke 13 is fascinating, and it is not clear if it were meant literally or as a parable: "Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish."
It seems as though not everything is out of our hands!