David Dao, the 69-year-old doctor who was injured after being dragged off a United Airlines flight on April 9, has officially hired a lawyer who will bring the case to court. Chicago lawyer Thomas Demetrio will represent Dao in a lawsuit against the airline, and he came out swinging in his first press conference on Thursday.
Demetrio, who is part of the invitation-only Inner Circle of Advocates, a group of the 100 best plaintiff lawyers in the country, has taken legal action against airlines in the past. In 1999, he won a $30 million settlement for two victims of an American Airline plane crash, and in the 1970s he represented the widow of a man who died in the plane crash that killed American folk singer Jim Croce.
In a press conference on Thursday, he announced that he has not yet filed a lawsuit against United, but that he intends to fight for his client. United Airlines issued an apology to Dao earlier in the week, and promised to conduct a "thorough review" of United's policies. "I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right," United CEO Oscar Munoz said. "I promise you we will do better."
"We want fairness as a society. We want respect. We want dignity. That’s it," Demetrio said in defense of Dao. "It’s not a big deal. This seems so simple. Forget the law for a minute that requires common decency in the treatment of passengers, but just treat us with respect."
In the past, colleagues have called Demetrio "the everyman's lawyer." A graduate of the University Notre Dame and the Chicago-Kent College of Law, Demetrio has a track record of fighting against large corporate entities to protect citizens.
In 2012, he represented NFL and NHL players in a concussion class action lawsuit, winning a $1 billion dollar settlement, according to the Chicago Tribune, and has even worked pro bono to represent the family members of individuals who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Demetrio filed an emergency "bill of discovery" in the Illinois State Supreme Court on Thursday, a document that basically states that the airline must preserve all evidence related to the incident to be used in trial. Demetrio has said that he is waiting to file a formal lawsuit until his team can collect all of the necessary information to prove United's alleged liability.
"When we file our lawsuit, it's going to be because every word, every preposition, is in that lawsuit for a reason," Demetrio said.
Given Demetrio's record of winning high-profile cases against large corporations, we can expect an interesting trial ahead.