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Thomas Demetrio: United Airlines settles with victim of dragging incident

April 27, 2017

By John Pletz  -

United took another big step toward putting the April 9 passenger-dragging nightmare behind it, settling with the passenger, Dr. David Dao, before a lawsuit was filed.

The airline settled with the Kentucky doctor, who suffered a concussion, broken nose and two lost teeth when he was dragged off a United plane April 9.

"Dao reached an amicable settlement with United Airlines for the injuries he received in his ordeal, which was captured on video worldwide," his attorneys, Thomas Demetrio of Corboy & Demetrio and Stephen Golan of Golan Christie Taglia, said in a statement.


The settlement also covers the city of Chicago, whose security officers at O'Hare International Airport were the ones who dragged Dao off the airplane, resulting in his injuries.

"We are not proceeding against the city," Demetrio said. "United Airlines accepted full responsibility for what occurred. The city is not going to be pursued by us. We'll be releasing the city. There's no need for Dr. Dao to look to anyone else. The city is the beneficiary of United stepping up to the plate."

Of course, there was some self-interest at work, too. Any settlement involving the city likely would have come from the Dept. of Aviation, which has a separate budget, most of which comes from the airlines. Based on its market share at O’Hare, United would have shouldered a big chunk of those costs.

Demetrio said, however, "I'm sure good, positive changes in policy and training will be made to make sure passengers coming in and out of our city's airports will be made to feel safe."

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The case was settled remarkably fast—before a suit was filed—but such a pace is not unheard of.

"Somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of civil settlements we see are pre-suit," said John Kirkton, editor of Jury Verdict Report, a unit of Chicago-based Law Bulletin Publishing. "It's obviously a situation where there's strong liability and an incentive to settle."

In an interview, Demetrio added: "We don't see this in our world of civil litigation. It's a life lesson in how corporations should react when it's appropriate. Litigation is costly and time-consuming."


In their statement, the attorneys praised United CEO Oscar Munoz, who was vilified on social media for his initial response to the incident in which he blamed Dao for being belligerent. Munoz made another round of public apologies with national media outlets today after United released its own report on the incident and promised numerous changes in procedure.

"Mr. Munoz said he was going to do the right thing, and he has," Demetrio added. "In addition, United has taken full responsibility for what happened on Flight 3411, without attempting to blame others, including the city of Chicago. For this acceptance of corporate accountability, United is to be applauded."

United issued its own statement, saying: "We are pleased to report that United and Dr. Dao have reached an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard Flight 3411. We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do."

Munoz's mea culpa tour isn't over yet: He is set to appear next week before a U.S. House committee hearing.

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