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One Lawyer's Mission to Stop Airline Bullying

United Airlines lost the case when Ellen Degeneres, Esq., took the stand.

Commenting on how the airlines forcibly removed one of its passengers, the comedienne told her television audience that it upset everyone on the flight. Chicago airport police literally dragged 69-year-old David Dao off the plane.

"It's crazy, they charged him a $50 removal fee," Degeneres joked. "That's not true, that's not true. No, your first forcible removal is free."

Attorneys say United acted within its rights under the company's contract of carriage. But a court of law will probably never have to decide the case.

Fight or Flight?

Kenneth Quinn, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, which represents airlines, said the company will likely settle.

"I think United is likely to be found on legally solid ground, but has already lost in the court of public opinion, and will pay dearly for it," he told Reuters.

But Thomas Demetrio, who represents Dao, is just getting started. At a press conference this week, he said his client suffered a concussion and a broken nose.

"Are we gonna continue being treated like cattle, bullied?" Demetrio asked.

A Higher Calling

Demetrio is not stopping at the airport; he also wants to hold the city responsible.

"Here's the law, real simple," Demetrio said. "If you're going to eject a passenger, under no circumstances can it be done with unreasonable force or violence."

The city's aviation department, which operates separately from the police department, has placed the three security officers who ejected Dao on leave. Meanwhile, the city council replayed viral video of the incident at a council meeting and questioned the aviation commissioner about it.

"So, you're the deputy commissioner and you're in charge of safety and security for Chicago's airports. ... And you're not aware of whether or not there is a use of force order ... that is distributed to your officers?" Alderman Edward Burke asked.

Commissioner Ginger Evans said the policy is being updated.

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