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United Airlines attack: Lawyer says dragged passenger will need reconstructive surgery

United Airlines attack: Lawyer says dragged passenger will need reconstructive surgery
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United Airlines and the city of Chicago may find themselves the target of lawsuits by the man who was dragged off a United plane in Chicago last week...

United Airlines and the city of Chicago may find themselves the target of lawsuits by the man who was dragged off a United plane in Chicago last week after refusing to give up his seat.

One of Dr. David Dao's lawyers, Thomas Demetrio, said as much yesterday during a news conference in which he suggested that Dao could be "a poster child" for the mistreatment of passengers by the airline industry.

"It took something like this to get a conversation going," attorney Demetrio said.

Dao was forcibly removed from a fully-booked United Express flight out of O'Hare International Airport on Sunday to make room for crew members.

Demetrio said the 69-year-old Kentucky physician and father of five lost two teeth and suffered a concussion and broken nose during the incident. He also indicated that Dao will be suing the airline and the city of Chicago, which employs the airport police who dragged Dao down the aisle, his face bloody.

Demetrio said the video showed an extraordinary instance of something that happens too routinely: Airlines overbooking flights then bumping paying customers.

It also exposed a corporate culture in which airlines and United in particular have long "bullied" passengers, he said.

The situation could have been avoided if the airline, which offered USD 800 travel vouchers and a hotel stay for passengers to rebook on another flight, had simply upped their offer, Demetrio said.

"I hope he becomes a poster child for all of us," he said. "Someone's got to."

Dao, who didn't attend the news conference, was released from a local hospital late yesterday and will need reconstructive surgery, Demetrio said.

He said his client was in a "secure location" because he has been hounded by media, but that he would speak at a future date.

One of Dao's children, Crystal Pepper, said the family was "horrified, shocked and sickened" by what happened.

Early on, United CEO Oscar Munoz added to what was already a public relations nightmare for the company when he apologised for the incident but accused Dao of being belligerent. Later, Munoz offered a more emphatic mea culpa, saying: "No one should ever be mistreated this way."

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