WASHINGTON – The bloodied doctor who was dragged from a United Airlines plane said the treatment he received at the hands of police “storm troopers” was more horrifying than when he left Vietnam during the fall of Saigon, his lawyer said Thursday.
Attorney Thomas Demetrio also said Dr. David Dao suffered a severe concussion, a broken nose and a sinus injury, in addition to losing two front teeth, when Chicago Department of Aviation police officers forcibly removed him from a plane Sunday night at O’Hare International Airport to make room for a United employee.
Demetrio said Dao, 69, was discharged from a hospital Wednesday night but soon will have reconstructive surgery.
Demetrio is a partner at the Chicago law firm of Corboy & Demetrio. The firm’s specialties include personal injury and aviation litigation.
At a news conference in Chicago, Demetrio placed the blame for Dao’s injuries squarely on United and said his client will “probably” sue the airline.
“Here’s the law – pure and simple. If you are going to eject a passenger, under no circumstance can it be done with unreasonable force or violence,” he said.
“If unreasonable force of violence is used, the common carrier – United Airlines in this case – is responsible.”
Demetrio said a common carrier has “the highest duty of care to provide protection and safety to its fare-paying passengers.”
“As we all saw on the video – that was not done.
“And I would defy anyone to suggest there was not unreasonable force and violence used to help Dr. Dao disembark that plane.”
The lawyer said his client compared his ordeal to fleeing Vietnam.
“He said that being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced leaving Vietnam” in 1975 when Saigon fell, Demetrio said.
Demetrio criticized how the airline industry treats passengers.
“For a long time airlines, United in particular, have bullied us. They have treated us less than maybe we deserve,” he said.
“Here is what we want as a society: We want fairness in how people treat us, we want respect, and we want dignity. That’s it. … Just treat us with respect, make us feel like you really care.”
He also said that United has not contacted Dao.
But in a statement released after the news conference, the airline said Munoz and the company called Dao “on numerous occasions” to apologize.
The Chicago-based airline reiterated that it is taking steps to prevent similar incidents, including using law enforcement only in matters of safety and security.
“This horrible situation has provided a harsh learning experience from which we will take immediate, concrete action,” United said in the statement. “We have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again.”
Earlier, Dao’s daughter joined Demetrio to thank people from “around the world.”
“On behalf of my dad and my entire family, we would like to express our gratitude for the huge outpouring of prayers, love and concern we have received,” Crystal Pepper said.
“We would also like to thank all the nursing, physicians and staff who have taken care of my dad.”
Pepper said her family was “completely horrified and shocked” when they learned what had happened to her father.
“Seeing it on video made those emotions exacerbated. We hope in the future nothing like this happens again.”
On Wednesday, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz appeared on “Good Morning, America,” where he apologized for Dao’s treatment. Munoz has been criticized for not apologizing immediately and for calling Dao “belligerent and unruly.”
The incident has been a public relations disaster for the airline. On Wednesday, United announced that all passengers on the flight would receive a refund. But CNN is reporting Thursday that an email to passengers about the refund stipulates that anyone who accepts one must agree to not sue the airline or its agents.
Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of the Chicago-based Rainbow Push Coalition, picketed United at O’Hare airport on Wednesday and planned to do so again on Thursday. He carried a sign that read: “Beat your competition … not your customers.”
— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) April 13, 2017