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United Airlines passenger David Dao 'planning lawsuit'

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By Alasdair Sandford
United Airlines passenger David Dao 'planning lawsuit'

The passenger dragged off a United Airlines plane in Chicago will probably take legal action, according to his lawyer.

David Dao, a 69-year-old Vietnamese American doctor, was hospitalised after being physically removed from the aircraft to make space for four crew members at O’Hare International Airport.

Lawyer Thomas Demetrio said that his client had suffered concussion, a broken nose and lost two front teeth in the episode which sparked international outrage as video film went viral.

The lawyer and the passenger’s daughter addressed a news conference in Chicago.

Demetrio said the legal team was taking its time to prepare a case but was not yet ready to sue.

“We have been getting calls from people who used to work for the aviation department, who trained these officers – and nothing, nothing in the training, I submit, as it will be proven, says in a non-confrontational situation where the other passengers are in jeopardy should this type of conduct ever be utilised or force utilised,” the lawyer said.

“What happened to my dad should never happen to any human being regardless of the circumstance. We were horrified and shocked and sickened to learn what had happened to him and to see what had happened,” said Crystal Dao Pepper, who is one of Dao’s five children.

As well as the airline, the city of Chicago – which runs the airport and employs the officers who dragged Dao off the plane – could also face legal action, his lawyer said.

“We have to figure out, United has to figure out, the airline industry has to figure out what do we do? We take money from people, we let them sit on the airplane, seat belted, are we really going to just start taking them off then? Is that what we want as a society?” said Demetrio.

The lawyer said the 69-year old passenger had told him his experience was more terrifying than fleeing Vietnam in the 1970s.

“Here’s what he told me. He said that he left Vietnam in 1975 when Saigon fell and he was on a boat and he said he was terrified. He said that being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced in leaving Vietnam. That was his response to me.”

Lawyers acting for the passenger have already filed an emergency request with an Illinois state court to require the carrier, United Continental Holdings Inc, and the City of Chicago to preserve video recordings and other evidence.

United Airlines – whose chief executive Oscar Munoz is under pressure to resign over the affair – has apologised but has not said whether it would try to settle any claim.