United Airlines has been all over the news of late after a passenger, David Dao, was dragged off against his will by security personnel. After the incident, the city decided to open up an investigation into the incident and placed the officers involved on administrative leave.
While airlines like United may claim that they are entitled to bump passengers under the “contract of carriage,” which, in turn, provides those passengers who hsve been “involuntarily denied boarding” with compensation, security personnel arguably used excessive force in dragging Dao off the plane, resulting in Dao suffering numerous injuries. Rightfully so, Dao is now considering filing a personal injury claim against United Airlines.
“Excessive” Force and Battery
While law enforcement may possess a certain amount of leeway when it comes to dealing with criminal suspects, using force like this to remove passengers from oversold flights—passengers who have rightfully paid for their flight and have done nothing wrong—is, of course, is a different situation. In this case, the passenger was already in his seat, arguably indicating that the airline waited too long to figure out a way to accommodate employees who need to get on a flight at the last minute in order to meet schedule needs.
Airlines will attempt to claim that a passenger refusing to give up his or her seat is breaking the law by “interfering with the flight crew,” although this is a vague and ambiguous charge, and can really cover anything that might make the flight crew uncomfortable. However, as anyone who watched that video can see, this particular passenger was arguably battered due to excessive use of force. In addition, not only did the officers involved use that excessive force, but the airline was complicit in acquiescing to the use of that excessive force, thus opening them up to a potential personal injury claim, as well.
The question is, in what official capacity were these law enforcement officers acting? Were they serving as city officials/protecting the public, or were they independently hired as officers to work for the airlines, or were they working in some other capacity? While police officers acting in an official capacity are often immune from certain types of liability, it is still unclear whether these particular officers were, in fact, representing the police department.
In addition, this particular passenger informed the airlines that he had to be on that flight because he was a doctor and had to reach his patients on time, thus, it is possible that his patients could also have claims against the airline if they suffered as a result of the incident. Even surrounding passengers and onlookers could bring claims related to emotional distress.
Personal Injury Attorneys Serving New Orleans and Surrounding Areas
Harrell & Nowak helps clients dealing with any and all personal injuries caused by someone else’s negligent or intentional conduct. If you have been harmed by an airline’s misconduct, contact us today to find out how we can help.