By: Allan M. Siegel
Many people across the United States were shocked and appalled by video,
posted online, of a passenger on a United Airlines flight being assaulted
and forcibly removed from his seat by an aviation policeman, on April 10, 2017.
The man, Doctor David Dao, boarded a United flight in Chicago, on a completely
full plane destined for Kentucky. The airline then decided that it needed
four seats on the plane, in order to transport four airline employees
to serve as a flight crew on a different flight bound out of Kentucky.
United offered the passengers $800 and a hotel room if any of them would
agree to leave the plane and take another flight the next day, but no
So United decided to kick four random people off the flight. It is unclear
at this point whether United even had the legal right to do this. Multiple
legal commentators have pointed out that, in United's standard contract
with its passengers, it had the right to
refuse to board passengers for the purpose of saving seats for United's own employees, but United
may not have had the right to
kick people off the plane for the same reason.
Right or wrong, the flight crew ordered Dr. Dao to get out of his seat
and off the plane, to take a flight the next day. Dr. Dao refused, insisting
that he had patients to treat the next morning in Kentucky. That is when
the flight crew asked members of the Chicago Department of Aviation to
forcibly remove Dr. Dao. This led to an incident (caught on cell phone
video) in which a police officer smashed Dr. Dao's face into an arm
rest, breaking two of his teeth and giving him a concussion, according
to his family. (VIdeo shows that Dr. Dao's face was bloodied by his
injuries). The police department has put multiple officers on leave while
investigating the incident.
The incident raises several troubling questions. One question, raised above,
is whether United even had the legal right to kick Dr. Dao off the plane.
Airline passengers are in a vulnerable position with respect to the airlines,
which makes it easier for airlines to take advantage of passengers in
violation of their legal rights. (The same can be said about many other
kinds of consumers who deal with corporations.) Another question is why
the Department of Aviation officers were so quick to follow orders from
United. And, of course, another question is why the police officers thought
it was appropriate to use severe, violent force against someone who posed
no physical threat to anyone.
If you have been injured by a police officer, security guard, or someone
similar, you should
contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel,
P.C., for a free consultation, discuss whether your legal rights were violated.