What are the Legal Claims Coming from the United Airlines Case?
Nearly a month after the incident, the world is still outraged over the video of traveller David Dao forcibly being removed from United Airlines flight 3411. After several years of air travel progressively becoming more and more expensive, inconvenient, and uncomfortable for passengers, it’s come to be seen as the ultimate example of how poorly airlines treat customers.
Seeing the way Dao was physically dragged from the plane is truly shocking and disturbing and the way United handled the response to the outrage over the incident has done little to make the public willing to travel with United in the future. Amidst all the commentary being generated about the incident, one of the biggest questions people seem to have is whether or not United acted legally in removing Dao from the plane in the first place and if he has grounds for a lawsuit.
When a person buys a ticket from an airline, they agree to the terms of the airline’s contract of carriage, which typically includes several reasons why a ticketed passenger can be denied boarding or be asked to leave a plane, such as if they are drunk, sick, violent, or disruptive. United has argued they were within their rights to remove Dao from the flight because he was being disruptive. But whether or not his behavior was truly disruptive is still being fiercely debated. There are no reports of him behaving disruptively before he was asked to leave the plane, just that he protested leaving the plane because he needed to get home because he had patients to see the next morning. Witnesses have stated that Dao never even raised his voice when talking to airline employees. A report from the Chicago aviation police has recently been released
It’s also still being debated whether or not it was even truly necessary for the airline to resort to such actions in the first place. Many people are wondering why the airline didn’t offer more compensation to entice passengers to leave the plane. According to reports, United offered passengers $800-$1,000 (sources vary on the exact amount) to leave the flight before starting to randomly choose passengers. But the Department of Transportations allows airlines to offer as much as $1,350 to passengers who have involuntarily been bumped from flights and cannot be re-scheduled to reach their destination within two hours of their originally planned arrival time, which would have been the case with this flight.
While there is still much to debate in the incident, one thing is certain. Thomas Demetrio, a lawyer representing Dao, has announced he will be filing a personal injury lawsuit over injuries he suffered during the altercation. According to Demetrio, Dao suffered a significant concussion, a broken nose, injuries to his sinuses, and lost two of his front teeth as he was dragged off the plane. As a result, Dao will need reconstructive surgery for the injuries to his nose and sinuses. “If you’re going to eject a passenger, under no circumstances, can it be done with unreasonable force or violence. That’s the law,” Demetrio stated during a press conference. In a recently-released report of the incident from the Chicago aviation police, officers claim Dao became violent with officers and claim his actions are what caused his injuries.