Attorneys for a Kentucky physician who was forcibly removed from his United Airlines seat after he refused to voluntarily give it up said Thursday at a news conference in Chicago that they will likely file a lawsuit against the airline.
Attorneys for David Dao, 69, requested an order in Cook County Circuit Court requiring that Chicago officials and United keep “all video, cockpit recordings and other reports from the flight, along with the personnel files of the Aviation Department officers who pulled Dao from the plane,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
“Will there be a lawsuit? Yeah, probably,” Chicago-based personal injury lawyer Thomas Demetrio said Thursday. “As you know, we’ve taken a step ... to protect and preserve certain evidence we’re going to need down the line. It’s not just a matter of throwing the video up and asking the jury, ‘OK, who wins?’”
A hearing on the order is scheduled for Monday.
Dao suffered injuries, including a severe concussion, a broken nose and an unspecified injury to his sinuses, Demetrio said. He will need reconstructive surgery and lost two front teeth.
“He’s shaken,” Demetrio said, adding that the doctor was discharged from a hospital on Wednesday after spending three days recovering from his injuries. “This was not a troubled passenger. This was not a nut job.”
Demetrio said the incident, reported Sunday, was more horrifying for Dao than went he left Vietnam during the fall of Saigon and came to the United States in 1975. Demetrio categorized the confrontation as a continuation of bullying tactics used by airlines, particularly United.
“They have treated us less than maybe we deserve. I’ve concluded that based upon hundreds of tales of woe, of mistreatment, by United,” Demetrio said. “Dr. Dao … has come to understand that he’s the guy .... to stand up for passengers going forward.”
Crystal Pepper, one of Dao’s five children, thanked the public for its prayers and concerns.
“It has been a very difficult time for our entire family, especially my dad,” she said at the news conference. “What happened to my dad should have never happened to any human being, regardless of the circumstances. We were horrified and shocked and sickened to learn what had happened to him and see what had happened to him.”
Passengers started filming Sunday on United Airlines Flight 3411 on Sunday after Dao refused to give up his seat, even after airline crew members called police to have him removed. Dao was traveling with his wife, also a doctor, out of Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Louisville, Kentucky.
Video posted on social media showed Dao being manhandled by the officers as he screamed before they dragged him, bloodied, down the plane’s center aisle.
Another video showed Dao appearing disoriented after he made his way back to the cabin. Demetrio said Dao has no memory of returning to the plane.
"Just kill me. Kill me," he repeats in the clip. "I have to go home."
The Chicago Department of Aviation officers involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave as city officials investigate the incident.
Demetrio said the city could face some culpability for the situation.
“Just because United is responsible doesn’t mean the city of Chicago isn’t responsible,” he said.
United CEO Oscar Munoz apologized for the incident and said Tuesday that the company would no long ask police to remove passengers from full flights. He also offered full refunds, in the form of cash, miles or travel credits, to all the passengers who were on Flight 3411.
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