*Update May 1: United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz apologized to Dr. David Dao and paid him an undisclosed settlement.
The 69-year-old United Airlines passenger who was physically dragged off a plane this week has a solid legal case.
That’s the consensus of several attorneys based on the alarming video of the bizarre incident. The controversy erupted Sunday, when David Dao was violently dragged off a flight from Chicago to Louisville after refusing to disembark.
“It might be argued that the force used here was excessive,” John Banzhaf, a professor at George Washington University Law School, told LawNewz. “Even if somehow the law permitted a passenger to be removed by force under these circumstances, it would appear that the force used here was excessive, and that the airline acquiesced in the use of that excessive force.”
— Tyler Bridges (@Tyler_Bridges) April 9, 2017
— Kaylyn Davis (@kaylyn_davis) April 10, 2017
Personal injury attorney David Eisbrouch agreed, saying the multiple damning videos posted by outraged passengers is a PR nightmare for United. Eisbrouch then urged United to settle the matter immediately:
The footage shot by another passenger certainly doesn’t look good for the airline. Why didn’t the airline resolve the overbooking problem at the gate prior to all the passengers boarding the flight? At a minimum, United personnel should be reaching out to the good doctor ASAP in order to resolve this matter before it goes any further.
The incident spiraled out of control shortly after passengers boarded the flight. At that point, an announcement was made, saying four volunteers were needed to give up their seats so United Airlines employees could use them. United reportedly offered $800 cash in exchange for volunteering.
When no one volunteered, the airline announced that it had randomly chosen four people to vacate their seats. Three of them left the plane, but David Dao refused, claiming he’s a doctor who needed to get back home to tend to patients.
United then called the airport police, who dragged him away. During the scuffle, the 69-year-old Dao hit and bloodied his face on an armrest. Afterward, United’s CEO issued the following statement.
United CEO response to United Express Flight 3411. pic.twitter.com/rF5gNIvVd0
— United (@united) April 10, 2017
After initially lying to the public by claiming the flight was overbooked, United Airlines later admitted that the plane was not overbooked. Instead, United decided to remove four paying passengers to accommodate crew members who needed to be in Louisville the next day.
Adding to the confusion was a statement by the Chicago Police Department, which tried to justify the dragging by blaming Dao, claiming he had been unruly.
It’s unclear why the Chicago Police Department released the statement, when officers with the Chicago City Department of Aviation (which is unrelated to Chicago PD) were the ones who had battered the passenger.
Chicago PD statement on the United passenger is a model of why so many people don't trust police statements pic.twitter.com/Xs3HjCpJos
— Harry Siegel (@harrysiegel) April 10, 2017
A rep with the Chicago Department of Aviation said the officer who dragged David Dao was placed on leave. The U.S. Department of Transportation is now investigating the matter:
US Dept of Transportation looking into the United incident as well pic.twitter.com/fXujb8HpB5
— Michael Del Moro (@MikeDelMoro) April 10, 2017
After being bludgeoned on social media for his unapologetic response, United Airlines CEO issued an apology to HIS EMPLOYEES:
— United (@united) April 11, 2017
Meanwhile, Twitter reacted to the incident with its usual snarky humor.
United Airlines is pleased to announce new seating on all domestic flights- in addition to United First and Economy Plus we introduce…. pic.twitter.com/KQjPClU2d2
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) April 10, 2017
— Henners (@henry_shaw) April 11, 2017
— Fabian (@itsFabian) April 11, 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet our captain and crew.
All the best for your fight… FLIGHT. I mean FLIGHT.
— Happening Babua (@HappeningBabua) April 11, 2017
#NewUnitedAirlinesMottos though our prices are unbeatable, we can't say the same for our passengers
— alana (@_alanamarks) April 11, 2017
— kris peck (@krispeck) April 11, 2017