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United Airlines Passenger is Violently Removed by Aviation Policeman and Seriously Injured After Refusing to Get Bumped From His Seat

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.

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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 one volunteered.

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.