United Airlines passenger who was dragged off flight pursues legal action

Lawyers for David Dao, the doctor forcibly dragged off a United Airlines plane, filed an emergency request with an Illinois state court on Wednesday to require the carrier to preserve video recordings and other evidence related to the incident.

Citing the risk of “serious prejudice” to their client, the lawyers want the airline and the City of Chicago, which runs O’Hare International Airport, to preserve surveillance videos, cockpit voice recordings, passenger and crew lists and other materials related to United Flight 3411. 

The filing with the Cook County Circuit Court likely presages an eventual lawsuit against United for the April 9 incident, where Dao was snatched from the seat he had paid for, and was dragged by his hands on his back off the parked plane, which had been bound for Louisville, Kentucky. 

Dao is scheduled to hold a press conference Thursday morning, his legal team said.

170411-facebook-united-passenger-bloody-face.jpg

In a video posted online, a United Airlines passenger is shown with a bloody face after he was forced off an overbooked flight on Sun., April 9, 2017, by officers at Chicago O’Hare airport.

United Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz on Wednesday apologized to Dao and said the company would no longer use law enforcement officers to remove passengers from overbooked flights. A video of Dao being dragged off the flight, bleeding, went viral this week, causing global outrage.

Much of the uproar stemmed from Dao’s status as a paying passenger who was being removed, against his will, to make room for additional crew members on the overbooked flight.

Three security officers have been placed on leave after the incident, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Their names have not been released.

On Capitol Hill, powerful Republican and Democratic lawmakers denounced how Dao was treated and called for United to explain the situation.

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, announced plans for the Customers Not Cargo Act, which would prohibit the forcible removal of passengers already aboard an aircraft “due to overbooking or airline staff seeking to fly as passengers.”

Two online petitions calling for Munoz to step down as CEO had more than 124,000 signatures combined by Wednesday afternoon, but he told ABC that he had no plans to resign over the incident.

Shares of United Continental (UAL) closed 1.1 percent lower on Wednesday, at $69.93. They fell as much as 4.4 percent on Tuesday.

The backlash from the incident resonated around the world, with social media users in the United States, China and Vietnam calling for boycotts of the No. 3 U.S. carrier by passenger traffic and an end to the practice of overbooking flights.

Delta Air Lines (DAL) CEO Ed Bastian defended overbooking as “a valid business practice” that does not require additional oversight by the government.

“It’s not a question, in my opinion, as to whether you overbook,” Bastian said on a Wednesday earnings call. “It’s how you manage an overbook situation.”

As of Tuesday, Dao was still in a Chicago hospital recovering from his injuries, his lawyer said.

Footage from the incident shows Dao, bloodied and disheveled, returning to the cabin and repeating: “Just kill me. Kill me,” and “I have to go home.”

In the ABC interview, Munoz apologized profusely to Dao, his family, passengers and United customers.

“This can never, will never happen again,” he said.