LOS ANGELES -- A judge properly ruled that an airline does not have liability after a mother flew her daughter to Japan without the permission of the child's father, an attorney for All Nippon Airways said Thursday.
During a hearing Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William F. Fahey ruled that lawyers for Patrick Braden had not presented enough evidence of liability on the part of ANA.
But the judge rejected the airline's request for an immediate judgment in its favor and gave the Braden lawyers 10 days to amend the complaint with a stronger case.
ANA attorney Eric Weiss had argued that a ruling in the father's favor could open up the floodgates for such litigation.
He said Thursday that he is pleased with the ruling. He also said he was not disappointed the judge gave the other side a chance to fix the complaint, given that the subject matter is still relatively new.
However, Weiss said comments by Fahey led him to believe the judge will likely leave the case up to the appellate courts to decide.
"It's a sad case for Mr. Braden and we all feel for him, but the airline should not be held responsible," Weiss said.
Braden's daughter, Melissa Hinako Braden, was born April 6, 2005. In March 2006, Braden and the girl's mother, Ryoko Uchiyama, were granted joint legal and physical custody of the girl in March 2006, according to court papers in the case.
The court papers also state that Braden and Uchiyama were not married, but do not describe how long they were in a relationship. Braden's attorneys could not be immediately reached.
Ten days after the custody order was issued, Uchiyama took the girl on a flight to Tokyo on an ANA flight and Braden has not seen the girl since, according to Braden's lawsuit, filed March 14.
Alleging interference with custodial relations and negligence, Braden sued ANA March 14 tand argued the airline should have a policy that single parents traveling with a child need notarized approval from the other parent to do so.
ANA lawyers maintain it would be too burdensome for airlines to obtain permission from both parents whenever a minor child is traveling with an adult.
"First and foremost, kidnapping by a parent is unforeseeable, especially when the minor child is traveling abroad with her parent," the airline's lawyer argued. "Although it is certain that (Braden) suffered emotional injuries, ANA's conduct had no connection with the actions and conduct of Ryoko, the true guilty party in this dispute. Certainly, ANA did not act immorally."