Video clips went viral this week of a United Airlines passenger resisting security officers’ efforts to remove him from a plane, having his face come in contact with an armrest, and getting dragged dazed and bleeding down the aisle.
The incident has sparked international outrage, especially since passenger Dr. David Dao was being forced to leave the Chicago-to-Louisville flight Sunday evening because the airline had some last-minute crew members they wanted to transport.
Dao has now hired a high-profile personal injury lawyer, Thomas Demetrio.
“Will there be a lawsuit?” Demetrio asked rhetorically at a press conference Thursday. “Yeah, probably.”
Demetrio gleefully pointed out that United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, who did an interview on “Good Morning America” Monday, actually admitted that the airline was at fault and that Dao did nothing wrong.
In an attempt to connect with the American public, Demetrio spun an us-against-them narrative during the hour-long press conference, saying in regards to United, airlines in general, and corporate America, “Are we going to just continue to be treated like cattle, bullied, rude treatment?”
Dr. Dao’s daughter Crystal Dao Pepper spoke briefly to the audience of local and mainstream media reporters, saying, “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 that we have received from all over the world these past few days.”
“What happened to my dad should have never happened to any human being, regardless of the circumstances,” she insisted.
Asked by a reporter if he believed racism was a factor in Dao’s treatment by United, Demetrio said no. He also noted that he doesn’t think Dao should be called a modern-day Asian Rosa Parks, like some have suggested.
Pepper confirmed that her dad immigrated from Vietnam and had no connection to China, even though a witness on the plane said Dao claimed he was being discriminated against by United because he’s Chinese.
Demetrio said that his client was discharged from the hospital Wednesday night and was treated for a “significant concussion” as well as a “serious broken nose, injury to the sinuses” and will need reconstructive surgery. He also lost two front teeth.
Asked about what was going through Dao’s mind when he ran back onto the plane after being pulled off, babbling “just kill me, just kill me, just kill me,” Demetrio said he asked Dao that question.
In response, Dao talked about fleeing Saigon in 1975 when it fell but said being dragged off the plane like he was “was more horrifying and harrowing” than that.
Demetrio later explained that Dao was suffering from trauma when he ran back onto the plane and doesn’t remember anything about it.
Asked if United can be blamed for the actions of the Chicago Department of Aviation’s security officers, considering that they’re separate entities, Demetrio replied that the pilot is responsible for everything that happens on his plane. He said that the flight crew should have intervened in the officers’ “violent” actions. He also likened the officers to “stormtroopers,” which could be either a Nazi or “Star Wars” reference.
Demetrio said the City of Chicago is responsible, too, for the actions of the security officers because the aviation department is city entity. He implied that there could be a lawsuit against Chicago as well.
He also added that the security officers involved did not follow their own training in how they treated Dao. He also dismissed a claim that Dao tried to strike the officers.
Demetrio said Dao will likely seek compensation for his physical, mental, and emotional injuries.
Demetrio refused to answer any questions on Dao’s professional history, including multiple convictions of illegal trafficking and prescribing of painkillers. He acknowledged that Dao had had “serious bumps in the road” in his career, but said none of that was relevant today. When asked by a reporter why the office Dao is listed as working for said he doesn’t work there, his lawyer refused to answer that either.
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