Lawyers for David Dao, the passenger who sustained injuries when he was dragged off a United flight, will probably sue the airline. United has been scrambling to recover after a video of the incident went viral.
United Airlines' share price fell about 0.5 percent after a news conference on Thursday given by the lawyer of a 69-year-old Vietnamese-American who was forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to Louisville, Kentucky on Sunday.
"For a long time airlines, United in particular, have bullied us," lawyer Thomas Demetrio told a news conference in Chicago on Thursday. "Will there be a lawsuit? Yeah, probably," he said.
Dao was discharged from hospital on Wednesday night. He had suffered a significant concussion, a broken nose and lost two front teeth in the incident. He will need to undergo reconstructive surgery, Demetrio said. Being dragged down the plane was more terrifying for Dao than his experience fleeing Vietnam in the 1970s, his lawyer remarked.
After his experience, Dao "has no interest in ever seeing an airplane" and will likely be driven to Kentucky, Demetrio said.
International outrage, especially in Asia, was sparked when video footage was shared online of the removal of Dr David Dao from the flight. He was chosen by the airline as one of the passengers on the fully-booked flight to give up his seat so crew members could be flown to Louisville.
Anger grew when United Chief Executive Oscar Munoz in a letter to employees on Monday did not apologize to Dao and defended the airline's actions, saying Dao had been "disruptive and belligerent."
Dao's daughter, Crystal Dao Pepper, told the news conference that the family was "horrified, shocked and sickened" by what happened to her father.
Demetrio said that neither lawyers nor Dao's family had heard from United.
Lawsuit or settlement
Given the public relations problems caused to United by their handling of the incident, commentators are suggesting that United will want to come to a speedy settlement with their passenger.
United CEO Munoz appeared in a television interview on Wednesday saying he had tried to "reach out" to Dao and said he "deeply" apologized. He said United would no longer use law enforcement officers to remove passengers from overbooked flights.
Chicago's Aviation Department said two more officers had been placed on leave in connection with the incident. Chicago authorities could also be drawn into any lawsuit as the airport police are employed by the city.
"I think United, if they're smart, will quickly and quietly settle the case," said Justin Green, a partner at the law firm Kreindler & Kreindler in New York who represents airline passengers.
Lawyers have outlined two potential claims against United for Dao. One is a personal claim for assault and battery. The second is a contract claim as United's contract of carriage says nothing about removing a passenger from an aircraft - unless the passenger is disruptive.
However, the public relations consequences have been so severe for United in the week after the incident, commentators suggest the case will not get to court but rather to an individual settlement. United shares at one point fell more than 3 percent and have lost about 1 percent of their value since Monday.
jm/kms (AP, Reuters)