Daughter of dragged United passenger David Dao describes family’s horror at video, as lawsuit is readied

Dao suffered a broken nose and lost two front teeth when he was hauled off overbooked flight, says lawyer

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 April, 2017, 12:26am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 April, 2017, 10:17pm

A lawyer representing Dr David Dao, the physician dragged off a United Airlines flight in an altercation that sparked worldwide outrage on social media, said on Thursday he’s preparing a lawsuit accusing the airline of authorising “unreasonable” force.

Thomas Demetrio, a partner with Chicago-based Corboy & Demetrio, said his team is gathering the details of what prompted law enforcement officials to remove Dao from the flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky on Sunday.

Demetrio appeared in a press conference in Chicago with Dao’s daughter, Crystal Pepper.

Watch: United passenger David Dao suffered concussion, broken nose

“We were completely horrified and shocked,” Pepper said. “Seeing it on video made those emotions exacerbated. My dad is healing right now.”

The very public shaming of United Airlines

The video of Dao’s removal led to one petition calling for United CEO Oscar Munoz to step down from his position at the airline and another asking the US government to investigate.

The forcible removal left Dao, 69, with a “significant concussion”, a broken nose, injury to the sinuses, Demetrio said, adding that Dao lost two front teeth in the altercation and will need reconstructive surgery.

Demetrio said he will file a lawsuit against United in the circuit court of Cook County, Illinois, when his initial investigation is complete.

Demetrio and a second attorney, Stephen Golan, said neither they nor the family had heard from United yet.

The City of Chicago may also become a defendant.

“Just because United is responsible doesn’t mean that the City of Chicago isn’t also responsible,” Demetrio said. “More than one can be responsible for a single event, and in this case I believe that’s the case.”

The officers who dragged Dao off the flight are under the jurisdiction of the Chicago Department of Aviation, which manages Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports.

United, in a statement, said Munoz and the company “called Dr Dao on numerous occasions to express our heartfelt and deepest apologies.” The company did not comment on what its response would be to any litigation, and did not comment on whether the airline would try to settle with Dao.

The lawyers filed an emergency request with an Illinois state court on Wednesday to require United Continental Holdings Inc and the City of Chicago to preserve video recordings and other evidence related to Sunday’s incident, which would be a precursor to a lawsuit.

Other attorneys said state courts are typically more favourable to plaintiffs.

100,000 signatures goal reached on petition calling for investigation into airline’s removal of passenger

Officials from the city could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday’s news conference.

United Chief Executive Oscar Munoz is under pressure to contain a torrent of bad publicity and calls for boycotts against United, including in China, where people have been angered because Dao was an Asian-American passenger.

United shares have lost about 1 per cent of their value since Monday. The stock was down about 0.6 per cent after the news conference on Thursday.

Munoz has sought in the last two days to make amends. In a statement on Tuesday he said he “deeply” apologised and was disturbed by what had happened. On Wednesday, he apologised to Dao, his family and United customers in an ABC News interview, saying the company would no longer use law enforcement officers to remove passengers from overbooked flights.

Demetrio called the apology “staged” and a response to the airline executive’s earlier comments, which were heavily criticised by many.

With additional reporting from Reuters