LANGUAGE

Cameron v. Qantas Airways Limited

This was an application by Qantas to strike out the applicant's statement of claim.

The applicant, Mrs Cameron, had been a passenger on an international flight operated by Qantas between Australia and Singapore. Although she requested a non-smoking seat, she was seated in the smoking section. She alleged that she was exposed to tobacco smoke causing her to develop bronchitis, as a result of which she was unable to enjoy her holiday. On the return flight to Australia she was seated in the non-smoking section, but nonetheless alleged that she was exposed to tobacco smoke. Mrs Cameron alleged that Qantas's conduct was unconscionable in contravention of s52A of the Trade Practices Act, or alternatively that it was misleading or deceptive in contravention of s52 of the Act. She alleged that the contravening conduct was the policy of permitting smoking on flights and/or the allocation of seating in which smoking was permitted.

In addition to her own claim, Mrs Cameron brought the proceeding as a representative action pursuant to Part IVA of the Federal Court of Australia Act, purportedly on behalf of passengers flying on Qantas aircraft after 5 March 1992 (including future passengers) and on behalf of air crew.

Qantas sought to have the statement of claim struck out on grounds that the claims advanced in it were political and not justiciable. Alternatively, it said that the pleading was not properly brought as a representative action. Further, that the statement of claim did not distinguish between the claims Mrs Cameron brought in her personal capacity from those she purported to bring on behalf of the group. Further still, that the statement of claim was unclear, embarrassing, and did not plead facts supporting the alleged statutory causes of action.

Beaumont J agreed with Qantas that the pleadings were deficient in a number of respects and therefore made an order striking out the statement of claim. However, the judge declined to make an order striking out the whole proceeding, giving leave to the applicant to file an amended pleading.

The Court subsequently upheld the applicant's claim (in part): Cameron v Qantas Airways Limited [1995] FCA 1304; (1995) ATPR 41-417; (1995) 55 FCR 147 (and see also Qantas Airways v Cameron [1996] FCA 765 (30 August 1996) re: costs).