How Much Does United Airlines Have to Lose?

Here's how much an aviation law expert thinks Dr. David Dao can sue for.
By Caroline Hallemann, Good Housekeping
Right about now, United is probably wishing they'd offered more than $800 to volunteers willing to get off Sunday's now-infamous flight from Chicago to Louisville.
The carrier is facing a PR nightmare after a series of viral videos showed Dr. David Dao, a 69-year-old physician, being physically dragged off an airplane with visible injuries after he refused to vacate his seat.
Along with their reputation, the company's stock price took a hit, dropping over 1 percent on Tuesday, which CNN estimates is the equivalent of about $250 million. Dao was just released from the hospital with injuries, including a broken nose and concussion, but his lawyers have already announced plans for a lawsuit against United and the city of Chicago.

But does he have a case?

Aviation law expert Arthur Wolk, the founding partner of the Wolk Law Firm in Philadelphia, thinks Dao could bring a lawsuit in the millions of dollars.

There is nothing in that contract that gives United the right to commit an assault and battery.
[post_ads]First, Wolk believes the airline breached its own contract by removing Dao. Having read United's contract of carriage in its entirety, Wolk thinks Dao could sue for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional disturbance and may also have grounds to sue under various civil rights acts, in addition to that breach of contract.

"There is nothing in that contract that gives United the right to commit an assault and battery on a passenger," he told me over the phone.

"This is not a denied boarding incident, which is covered by the contract; this man was already boarded. This is not an oversold incident, as provided for by the contract; this airplane was not oversold — every passenger was ticketed and had a seat.

"This was not a situation where the passenger was unruly, committed a criminal act, interfered with the flight crew, was incapable of being a passenger by himself or anything of that nature, obviously until they attempted to physically throw him off the airplane.

"So to me, United Airlines breached their own contract of carriage."

Second, Wolk points out that if this case does go to trial, the case would come down to the jury—another major obstacle for United. "You have to understand what your jury pool is going to look like here. Virtually every person who has flown on an airline flight on a regular basis feels that airlines abuse their passengers. The mindset of the jury pool is that they hate the way they're being treated by airlines."
But Wolk doesn't think it will ever get that far.
"My view here is Dr. Dao has a very good case against United Airlines," he said, "and if I were United Airlines, I'd be all over him to try to get him to accept a reasonable compensation and to go away."

But if Dao neglected to settle, and did bring the case to court, just how much could he sue for? We asked Wolk if he thinks the sum would be in the millions, to which he responded, "I think so. I would say that this is the kind of thing that could go anywhere because the video is extremely disturbing, and I just think it's so reprehensible."

We have reached out to Dao's lawyers, and will update should we receive a response.

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Travel Magazine: How Much Does United Airlines Have to Lose?
How Much Does United Airlines Have to Lose?
While United passenger, David Dao is in the hospital recovering, he has already hired two high-powered attorneys in his lawsuit against United. We reached out to Arthur Wolk to see how much he can sue for.
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