A United passenger, David Dao, who was forcibly removed from an overbooked flight launched a legal before the weekend began.
On Thursday, Dao’s lawyers filed an emergency request with an Illinois court, asking that United be required to preserve videos and “other evidence relating to the incident.”
In an incident that has sparked mass outrage across social media, passenger David Dao was dragged off a flight after refusing to give up his seat. United had offered flight vouchers to entice passengers into volunteering to be “bumped” but didn’t get any takers. Using a computer program to randomly select four individuals, Dao’s name was called and he was told to exit the aircraft.
Dao, however, refused, saying he was a doctor and had patients to see in the morning. Airport security personnel were called in to take him away.
Dao’s fellow passengers used smartphones to record as he was dragged down the aisle to the aircraft exit. Video stills show blood dripping down the doctor’s face. He was later found to have suffered from a concussion and broke his nose as well as several teeth.
Attorneys for Dao cited the risk of “serious prejudice” to their client. In the wake of the incident going viral, lawyers are afraid that vital evidence might be disposed of or made unavailable in the event of the case going to court.
Alana Wise of Reuters summarized the request, writing, “[…] the lawyers want United and the City of Chicago, which runs O’Hare International Airport, to preserve surveillance videos, cockpit video recordings, passenger and crew lists, and other materials related to United Flight 3411.”
Chicago’s Aviation Department also said it placed two officers on leave, with another having been given the same order on Tuesday.
Video from CNN showing Dao bleeding after being dragged by airport security personnel.
The incident, which took place on April 9th, has been called a “PR disaster” for United and its CEO Oscar Munoz. The airline’s reaction to Dao’s forceful eviction was restrained and seemed geared more towards damage control than offering a genuine apology. Tweets from United and Munoz which referred to Dao as being “re-accommodated” were lambasted for their insensitive tone.
Paul Callan, a civil and criminal trial lawyer in New York, believed the publicity given to the case might contribute to an unusually large settlement.
“Because United has such a catastrophic PR problem, this case has a much greater value than such a case would normally have,” he said speaking to Reuters.
Midway through the week, Dao was still recovering from the injuries airport security personnel inflicted on him. He has been hospitalized in Chicago since the incident.