A lawyer representing Dr. David Dao, who was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight on April 10, said Dao had been seriously injured and would likely file a lawsuit over the ordeal.
Dao’s attorney, Thomas Demetrio, said his client lost two front teeth and suffered both a broken nose and concussion after he was confronted by security personnel in an incident that sparked widespread outrage.
Dao is seen being pulled from his seat and dragged down the aisle in passenger videos. Photos posted online showed Dao bleeding from his mouth.
“We’ll file the suit when our investigative work is done,” said Demetrio. “I don’t have a clue when that will be.”
He said both the airline and the city of Chicago should be held responsible, saying, “no one should have been treated the way he was treated.”
“If you’re going to eject a passenger, under no circumstances can it be done with unreasonable force or violence,” Demetrio said. “That’s the law.”
When prompted by a reporter to describe Dao’s mindset as he was pulled from the flight, Demetrio answered that his client compared the experience to his escape from Vietnam several decades prior.
“[Dao] told me he left Vietnam in 1975 when Saigon fell, and he was on a boat— and he said he was terrified,” Demetrio said. “He said being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced in leaving Vietnam.”
Following the news conference, United posted a statement on its website, calling the incident a “harsh learning experience.”
The company said it would conduct a full review by the end of the month, and indicated that some policies would change. The statement reads in part:
First, we are committing that United will not ask law enforcement officers to remove passengers from our flights unless it is a matter of safety and security. Second, we’ve started a thorough review of policies that govern crew movement, incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. Third, we will fully review and improve our training programs to ensure our employees are prepared and empowered to put our customers first.
The proposed changes represent a significant shift in tone from the airline, which has been reeling from a public-relations crisis since the videos of Dao began circulating online.
In its first press release, which was widely derided as insensitive, CEO Oscar Munoz called Dao’s removal from flight 3411 an “upsetting event” and apologized for having to “re-accomodate” customers.