California Jury Awards Damages to Flight Attendants in Uniform-Related Health Dispute

by Andrew Wright
Flight Attendant Lawsuit

In a recent legal development, a California jury has determined that a garment manufacturer must compensate four flight attendants from American Airlines with a sum exceeding $1 million. These individuals had attributed a spectrum of health problems—including dermatological reactions, headaches, and respiratory difficulties—to chemicals used in their uniform production.

The outcome of last week’s trial could potentially be an initial indicator of further judgments to come, as attorneys have disclosed representation of an additional 400 flight attendants with similar grievances against the clothing supplier.

Despite the jury’s verdict, it awaits judicial confirmation. The flight attendants’ legal representative has described this confirmation as a procedural formality. The defense attorneys for the uniform manufacturer have not indicated whether they intend to challenge the decision.

A new uniform rollout by American Airlines in 2016 initially received a positive response from flight attendants, who had been wearing the same design for ten years. However, positive sentiment waned as complaints emerged.

Tracey Silver-Charan, a veteran flight attendant with 37 years of experience, recounted distressing symptoms such as severe eye swelling and respiratory distress, likening her appearance to that of a boxer post-match, and detailing urgent care visits post-shift.

When issues arose, American Airlines provided alternatives, allowing attendants to revert to previous uniform styles or select new attire from retailers like Macy’s or JCPenney, shared Silver-Charan, based in Los Angeles.

The legal action initiated in 2017 culminated for Silver-Charan and three peers in a pivotal trial in Alameda County Superior Court. This trial aimed to gauge jury perception of the broader case.

The jury held Twin Hill Acquisition Co., the uniform supplier, accountable for producing attire that significantly contributed to the harm experienced by the flight attendants. However, the jury found no negligence in the design or continued distribution of the uniforms after the onset of complaints.

While the sentiment, “who doesn’t love a flight attendant?” was expressed by attorney Balaban, he signaled that additional cases might proceed to trial barring settlement offers from Twin Hill.

Post-verdict, Twin Hill retains the option to petition for a reduction of the awarded damages or to file an appeal, as noted by the company’s lawyer, Robert V. Good Jr., who otherwise withheld comment.

Subsequent to the controversy, American discontinued its contract with Twin Hill, opting instead for Land’s End as their new uniform provider.

The flight attendants’ legal complaint centered on allegations that their uniforms were tainted with formaldehyde, toluene, and other hazardous chemicals associated with health risks. The use of formaldehyde-based resins, long employed in textiles for their non-creasing properties and durability, has been a standard practice.

Congressional research from 2010 highlighted typically low formaldehyde levels in clothing but acknowledged that allergic responses such as skin rashes and irritation can occur in some individuals. While laundering before use can mitigate this, it is not always effective.

During the trial, the plaintiffs’ attorneys brought forth a 2018 Harvard School of Public Health study linking new uniforms to health complaints from Alaska Airlines staff.

Twin Hill’s defense countered with expert testimonies challenging the health impact of the uniforms. Silver-Charan noted these experts had not consulted with her or examined her uniform for chemical testing.

The jury’s award proposed $320,000 to Silver-Charan for lost wages and suffering, with an additional $750,000 for Brenda Sabbatino—both chosen by their counsel. Two other attendants, chosen by defense lawyers and reporting milder symptoms, were awarded $10,000 and $5,000 in damages, respectively.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Flight Attendant Lawsuit

What was the outcome of the flight attendants’ lawsuit against the uniform manufacturer?

The California jury ruled in favor of the flight attendants, awarding over $1 million in damages for health issues they claim were caused by chemicals in the uniforms.

Who is affected by the ruling of the lawsuit?

The ruling directly affects the four flight attendants involved in the trial, with potential implications for over 400 other attendants who have filed similar claims.

What health issues did the flight attendants experience?

The flight attendants reported a range of health problems, including skin rashes, headaches, and breathing difficulties, which they attributed to the chemicals used in their uniforms.

Will the uniform manufacturer appeal the jury’s decision?

The uniform manufacturer’s lawyer declined to comment on whether they would appeal the decision.

What did American Airlines do in response to the complaints about the uniforms?

American Airlines provided flight attendants with the option to wear their old uniforms or select new outfits from retailers like Macy’s or JCPenney after the complaints emerged.

What chemicals were the flight attendants concerned about in their uniforms?

The lawsuit claimed the uniforms contained formaldehyde, toluene, and other chemicals that could pose health risks.

Did the jury find the uniform manufacturer negligent in their design and response to complaints?

The jury found that the uniforms were a “substantial factor in causing harm” but did not find the manufacturer negligent in their design or lack of recall after complaints.

More about Flight Attendant Lawsuit

  • [Flight Attendant Uniform Health Claims]
  • [California Jury Verdict on Airline Uniforms]
  • [American Airlines Responds to Uniform Complaints]
  • [Toxic Chemicals in Flight Attendant Uniforms]
  • [Formaldehyde in Clothing Research Study]

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SarahBee November 3, 2023 - 6:20 am

Formaldehyde in clothes, isn’t that toxic?? how come they are allowed to use it in fabrics in the first place… doesn’t seem right

JennyH November 3, 2023 - 9:51 am

wow over $1 million for uniforms! never thought clothes could be that dangerous

Mike_Travels November 3, 2023 - 7:50 pm

so they won huh, that’s big news for the airline industry… it’ll be interesting to see if this opens the floodgates for more lawsuits like this one

Dave_Writes November 4, 2023 - 2:14 am

Seems like a lot of the attendants were affected by these uniforms, just curious why it took so long for their voices to be heard…

GaryS November 4, 2023 - 2:34 am

i read about this, the airline was giving them new clothes from Macys, but what about the health impacts long term? thats what worries me.


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