Although usually I don't agree with lawsuits, I think the women involved in this one was right. Airplanes that are pressurized maintain a cabin pressure of about the same you would experience at 8000 feet. We still don't know what the problem was, but if it was a problem that made for significant pressure changes in flight, and NW knew, but did nothing to fix them, they are negligent
Even if it was the smallest DC9 they operate, and assuming it was only half full, there would have been 39 passengers on board. If this pressurization problem would have affected even 3 more passengers, they I would say that perhaps the lawsuit had some merit. But if you have an ear problem that presents problems with pressurization, you really shouldn't be flying. Period. What if....the flight this woman was on was the first incidence of pressurization problems? She'd still suffer the same damage. Would she not want sue for it then? My guess is, yes, she would have, because of what I call the "coulda shoulda oughta" factor. NWA "shoulda" known that older aircraft were suceptible to this problem, and they "coulda" prevented it by retiring those aircraft, so they "oughta" pay for this.
It's sort of "damned if you do, damned if you don't"...suppose the "lesson" that NWA learned was that they needed to ask everyone checking in if they have "congenital ear condition that makes their ear less resistant to pressure changes". So the woman flies them again, they ask her, she says yes, so they issue her a refund and decline to fly her for "personal safety" reasons. Looks like discrimination of people with congenital ear defects to me. And I'd bet she'd be firing off letters to the CEO and hiring a lawyer.
I'm not trying to sound like an asshole in this response, but you really need to understand how much of the tort law works in the USA. Here's an example that might help you to understand:
On the evening of February 19, 1988, Mr. Compton and four other teenaged friends consumed several six-packs of beer and drove around Scott County, Kansas, in a 1982 Subaru GL Station Wagon. While traveling on U.S. Highway 83, the teenagers spotted the automobile of Mr. Compton's ex-girlfriend. Tailing behind, the Subaru weaved back and forth across the yellow line until one of the teenagers reached over and yanked on the steering wheel, causing the driver to lose control. The Subaru skidded across the highway, entered a ditch, and rolled over twice. During its first roll, Mr. Compton, seated in the rear seat behind the driver and not wearing a seatbelt, suffered a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia.
Pretty easy case, right? Well....Subaru was found to be 56% responsible
and a judgement was entered against them for $6,574,081. Drinking "several six packs of beer", weaving accross the yellow line, and someone yanking the steering wheel were only 44% liable for the injuries.
Bottom line, the person in the NWA suit had a congenital ear defect, yet still took on the risk of travelling in a pressurized airliner. Sorry, but that's not NWA's fault.