In a press conference today, the legal team for the passenger who was forcibly removed from his seat and dragged off a United Airlines flight on Sunday by Chicago aviation officers who have since been placed on administrative leave pending investigation says the 69-year-old man will “probably” file a lawsuit over the incident, but not quite yet.
Addressing reporters this morning in Chicago, attorney Tom Demetrio confirmed that his client Dr. David Dao will be filing a lawsuit in the near future, without giving a more specific timeline.
“Will there be a lawsuit? Yeah, probably,” he told reporters, noting that his team had already taken steps to protect and preserve “certain evidence we’re going to need down the line,” including surveillance footage, a cockpit voice recording, and other information related to the flight.
He confirmed that there will be a hearing Monday at 10 a.m. at the local court house, but that the team is still gathering the facts.
“It’s not a matter of throwing the video up and asking the jury, ‘Okay who wins?’” he said, adding later, “When our investigative work is done, we will file a suit. I don’t really have a clue when that will be.”
Whenever that time comes, the lawsuit will be filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Demetrio confirmed.
Demetrio adds that the case is not just about United’s treatment of Dao, but applies to the broader corporate world and how they interact with customers.
“I think corporate America needs to understand that we all want to be treated in the same manner with the same respect and the same dignity that they would treat their own family members,” Demtrio said, adding that he hopes the lawsuit will prompt an international discussion about how people are treated by big companies, no matter the industry.
“Dr. Dao, to, I believe, his great credit, has come to understand that he’s the guy, the guy to stand up for passengers going forward,” Demetrio said, later noting, “I hope he becomes a poster child for all of us — someone’s got to.”
Dao’s daughter also issued a statement to the press, expressing gratitude for the “the huge outpouring of prayers, love, and concern” that the family has received from all over the world these past two days,” and thanked the hospital staff that has taken care of Dao. Demetrio said that Dao was discharged from the hospital Wednesday night, claiming he had suffered a concussion, a broken nose, and injuries to his sinuses.
“What happened to my dad should have never happened to any human being regardless of the circumstance,” Dao’s daughter said. “We were horrified and shocked and sickened to learn what had happened to him and to see what had happened to him.”
She and Demetrio both confirmed that despite United CEO Oscar Munoz offering an apology to Dao on national television on Wednesday, the airline has not contacted the family directly. Despite that, Demetrio says the family accepts Munoz’s public apology with “gratitude.”
“I’m not looking for telephone conversation with Mr. Munoz,” Demetrio said. “I don’t think that would be fruitful — I’d rather he spend his time changing the culture at United Airlines.”
In a statement regarding the press conference, United Airlines disputes Demetrio’s claim that the company had not reached out to Dao directly, saying that Munoz and United “called Dr. Dao on numerous occasions to express our heartfelt and deepest apologies.”
“We continue to express our sincerest apology to Dr. Dao,” the statement reads. “We cannot stress enough that we remain steadfast in our commitment to make this right.”
Here’s United’s full statement:
We continue to express our sincerest apology to Dr. Dao. We cannot stress enough that we remain steadfast in our commitment to make this right.
This horrible situation has provided a harsh learning experience from which we will take immediate, concrete action. We have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again.
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. Our values – not just systems – will guide everything we do. We’ll communicate the results of our review and the actions we will take by April 30.
United CEO Oscar Munoz and the company called Dr. Dao on numerous occasions to express our heartfelt and deepest apologies.