James Long was one of several officers involved in removing 69-year-old doctor David Dao from a parked United Airlines flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on April 9, 2017.
Dr Dao was on his way home to Louisville from Chicago when he was ordered off the “overbooked” plane to make room for staff. When he refused, he was violently dragged off, losing several teeth and suffering a broken nose and concussion.
The incident was filmed by fellow passengers and sparked international outrage. Later that month, United Airlines apologised and paid a confidential settlement to Dr Dao believed to be in the millions of dollars.
Mr Long, who was sacked following the incident, on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against United Airlines, Chicago’s Department of Aviation and its commissioner Ginger Evans seeking damages in excess of $US50,000.
In the suit, filed in the Cook County Circuit Court, Mr Long claims that “despite the high probability” he would “have to arrest and detain individuals”, he was “not trained in the procedure of level of force continuum”.
He alleges CDA failed in its “duty of care” to “provide him with adequate training to perform the duties of his job”.
“The first two responding officers talked to Dr Dao and tried to persuade him to leave in a calm manner,” the statement of claim said. “Dao responded by stating that, ‘I’m not leaving this flight that I paid money for. I don’t care if I get arrested.’
“Plaintiff Long was called off his lunch hour to assist the two aviation security officers. Dr Dao continued to repeat that he was not going to get off the plane. United Airlines wanted Dr Dao removed from the plane.
“Therefore, when their entreaties didn’t work, plaintiff Long, following his training, gently tried to remove Dr Dao from his seat by putting a hand on his arm. Dao, however, started swinging his arms up and down with a closed fist.
“Plaintiff Long was able to pull Dao to the aisle but Dao continued to fight and managed to free his arm from plaintiff Long’s arm, which resulted in Dao losing his balance and falling. Dr Dao fell and hit his mouth on the armrest across from him which caused an injury to his mouth.
“Dr Dao’s injuries were a direct result of his fighting with the aviation officers. Plaintiff Long had assisted the subject by using minimal but necessary force to remove Dr Dao from his seat.”
The suit alleges that United Airlines “negligently failed to foresee the consequences of its action”, as it “knew or should have known” that calling aviation police to remove a passenger would require “the use of physical force”.
It also takes aim at Ms Evans over her actions following the incident, including a number of “defamatory” statements on Twitter, including that “the security officer who did this is not LEO [law enforcement officer]” and the actions “were completely inappropriate”.
The suit claims Ms Evans tweeted the former “knowing that this was a false statement and with the intent to cause severe emotional harm”, and the latter “with the intention of harming plaintiff Long personally and also harming his reputation in the community”.
“Defendant Evans had the power to and did exercise her influence to cause plaintiff Long’s termination,” the suit said. “But for defendant Evans’ negligence in training plaintiff Long, plaintiff Long would never have lost his job.
“Despite acting as he was trained, plaintiff Long was terminated on 8 August 2017 for the events that occurred on or about 9 April 2017. The decision of the CDA to terminate … caused plaintiff Long mental anguish.”
Mr Long, who has been unemployed since the incident, is seeking damages for loss of salary, leave entitlements, insurance coverage and retirement, as well as damages for “emotional injuries” and legal costs.
A spokeswoman for United Airlines said, “We have not been served with this suit and are unable to comment.” The City of Chicago has been contacted for comment.