A lawyer for Dr. David Dao, the United Airlines passenger who was violently removed from his seat Sunday on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, said Thursday that his client suffered a broken nose, lost two front teeth and received a concussion during the traumatizing experience.
A lawsuit from Dao, attorney Thomas Demetrio said, was “likely.”
“Here’s the law, real simple: If you’re going to eject a passenger, under no circumstances can it be done with unreasonable force or violence,” Demetrio said during a press conference. “That’s the law.”
Demetrio is a high-powered Chicago lawyer whose firm focuses on medical negligence, airplane crashes and commercial litigation. His firm has amassed over $4 billion in verdicts and settlements, according to his website, and he has a reputation as a formidable attorney.
Dao “did in fact suffer a significant concussion as a result of disembarking that plane,” Demetrio said. “I can also tell you that he had a serious broken nose, injury to the sinuses, and he is gonna be undergoing, shortly, reconstructive surgery.”
“Ultimately, long-term, hopefully there will not be any significant repercussions because of that,” he went on. “But he is shaken.”
Agents initially said they had “no choice” but to remove Dao, 69, to make room for United employees on the flight. The company accused him of being “belligerent and disruptive,” but video shows Dao remaining calm in the moments leading up to the physical altercation.
“I’m a physician and I have to work tomorrow at 8 o’clock,” Dao can be seen politely telling Chicago airport security officers in the footage.
However, authorities dragged a bloodied Dao off the plane as other passengers looked on in horror.
Dao’s removal led to a fierce public outcry against the airline, with even President Donald Trump calling the situation “horrible.”
United CEO Oscar Munoz initially made things worse with a tone-deaf apology for “having to re-accommodate” customers. He followed that up with a more emphatic apology for “the truly horrific event,” promising that “we will do better.”
“He was a paying passenger sitting in a seat in our aircraft, and no one should be treated that way, period,” Munoz said Wednesday of Dao.
Demetrio called the company’s apology “staged.”
United released a new statement on Thursday, again apologizing and promising not to involve law enforcement in future situations unless the need for “safety and security” calls for it.
“This horrible situation has provided a harsh learning experience from which we will take immediate, concrete action,” the statement said. “We have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again.”
Demetrio said Thursday that airlines ― United in particular ― have “bullied us” and “treated us less than we deserve.”
“Are we gonna continue being treated like cattle, bullied?” Demetrio asked. “We all have enough angst for flying as it is.”
Dao’s daughter Crystal also spoke at the press conference, thanking everyone for their support of her father.
“What happened to my dad should have never happened to any human being, regardless of circumstance,” she said. “We were horrified and shocked and sickened to learn what had happened to him and to see what had happened to him. We hope that in the future nothing like this happens again.”
This story has been updated with United’s latest statement and additional details from Demetrio’s press conference.