The legal team of Dr. David Dao, the United Airlines passenger who made headlines internationally after footage emerged online showing him being dragged off a United Airlines flight at O’Hare International Airport on Sunday, took the first step toward suing the airline on Wednesday.
The legal team of the 69-year-old, who appeared bloodied and disoriented after being manhandled by airport security officers, has reportedly asked the Cook County Circuit Court for an order requiring United Airlines and the city of Chicago to preserve all evidence of the incident, including video, audio recordings, and other relevant reports, such as flight reports and personnel files of the officers who dragged the passenger off the plane.
The team also asked United to provide full information about its protocol for removing passengers from flights.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Dao has retained the services of two Chicago attorneys, corporate law specialist Stephen Golan and Thomas Demetrio, a personal injury lawyer who specializes in the aviation industry. He is a partner at Corby & Demetrio.
Demetrio has a history of winning big settlements for his clients. He was one of the attorneys in a 2002 case where several people were killed due to the collapse of scaffolding at the John Hancock Center. The victims in the case received a settlement of $75 million, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The legal team announced on Wednesday that Dao was planning to hold a press conference on Thursday morning (see video below). The legal team also released a statement on behalf of Dao’s family, thanking the “world” for “prayers, support and concern.”
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A few hours before Dao’s attorney’s filed the request, the Chicago Department of Aviation said that two other law enforcement officers who were involved in the incident had been placed on administrative leave. The action brought the total number of officers who have been placed on administrative leave in connection with the incident to three.
The three officers have not been named.
“The incident on United flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the Department.”
The latest report comes after new footage emerged showing Dao refusing to leave the plane after officers warned that he would be dragged off the flight if he refused to comply.
“You have to drag me,” Dao can be heard saying in the video.
Footage uploaded earlier showed the doctor screaming as the officers manhandled him and dragged him off the plane. He was later shown running back into the plane with blood running from his face.
He looked dazed and could be heard saying, “Just kill me — just kill me.”
A passenger told the Washington Post that Doa was heard saying that he was being mistreated on account of his Asian ethnicity.
“He said, more or less, ‘I’m being selected because I’m Chinese.'”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump commented on the incident during an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. He described United’s handling of the incident as “horrible.”
He suggested that there should be no cap on the amount that airlines are allowed to offer to induce passengers to leave an overbooked flight. United claimed that it offered up to $1,000. But passengers were unwilling to get off the plane probably because the next flight was not leaving until the next day.
Although some reports claimed that the Department of Transportation maintains a cap of $1,350, the Daily Mail reported that an aviation expert, Henry Harteveldt, insisted there is no federal limit to the amount that airlines can offer to induce passengers to leave.
And in a desperate bid to calm public outrage, United’s CEO Oscar Munoz apologized once again on Wednesday for the incident, even as his company’s share price tumbled.
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In an interview with Good Morning America, he said he felt “shame” when he watched the video footage showing Dao being handled roughly and thrown off the flight. He promised that the company will no longer call law enforcement to drag passengers off overbooked flights.
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He had previously apologized, saying that he regretted that the airline had to “re-accommodate these customers.” But he sparked further public outrage, with many calling for his resignation after it emerged that he sent a private email to employees defending the action of the officers. He blamed the passenger for the incident, saying he had been “disruptive and belligerent.” He also praised staff for “going above the beyond.”
Munoz argued that the officers had to remove the passenger from the flight because he refused to comply with instructions.
“He was a paying passenger sitting in our aircraft. No one should be treated that way.”
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“While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.”
After it was reported that United Airlines said it had refunded the cost of tickets to all passengers in the UA3411 flight from Chicago to Louisville, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) said she plans to introduce a bill that will prohibit airlines from forcing passengers off overbooked flights. Rather, airlines would be required to keep raising their offer of compensation until a customer gives up their seat.
Also on Wednesday, U.S Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), said he plans to introduce a bill that will prohibit forcible removal of passengers from a flight due to overbooking or to accommodate staff who want to fly as passengers.
Munoz had pledged earlier on Tuesday to implement a thorough review of his airline’s policy for handling situations where a flight is overbooked.
[Featured Image by Teresa Crawford/AP Images]