Associated Press, Miami Herald, Jan. 21
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Southwest Airlines is not liable for a flight attendant who upset two black passengers by using a version of a rhyme with a racist history, a jury determined Wednesday.
The two passengers, sisters Louise Sawyer and Grace Fuller, were heading home from a Las Vegas vacation nearly three years ago when flight attendant Jennifer Cundiff, trying to get passengers to sit down, said over the intercom, “Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go.”
The sisters say the rhyme was directed at them and was a reference to a racist version that dates to before the civil rights era: “Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; catch a n----- by his toe.”
The sisters filed a federal lawsuit against the airline claiming they were discriminated against and suffered physical and emotional distress. Judge Kathryn H. Vratil ruled last year that the case could proceed to trial, and it began on Tuesday before an eight-member jury.
The jury returned its verdict in favor of the airline Wednesday evening.
Attorney Scott A. Wissel, representing the two women, said in his opening statement that they were humiliated and degraded when Cundiff used the phrase, and decided to sue out of frustration after Southwest Airlines would not take their complaint seriously.
Cundiff, who is white, testified that she had used the rhyme before on other flights. She said Southwest Airlines encourages employees to use humor to help make flights more fun and memorable.
She testified that she was confused why someone would complain about the rhyme. It was not until later that she learned about the racist version, she said.