CHICAGO (CN) – The airline policeman fired after footage showed him violently dragging a Kentucky doctor off a United Airlines flight sued the airline and Chicago’s Department of Aviation Tuesday, claiming the city did not train him on the level of force to use in situations with passengers.
Former aviation security officer James Long’s 32-page lawsuit, filed in Cook County Court, blames his employers and Dr. David Dao for his firing in August 2017.
The complaint, filed by attorney Anne Beckert, landed almost exactly a year after footage of Long dragging Dao off an overbooked plane went viral, prompting condemnation of United and the Department of Aviation. Video also showed Dao returning to his seat with a bloodied face. He is not a party to the complaint.
Long, who has been unemployed since August, claims aviation security officers did not receive training on what level of force to use for situations like the one involving Dao, who had refused to move from his seat.
After United overbooked a flight from Chicago to Kentucky, it decided to randomly force passengers off the plane. Dao refused to budge, and told the first two responding officers: “I’m not leaving this flight that I paid money for. I don’t care if I get arrested,” according to the complaint.
Long says he was in the middle of lunch when he received a request to help the first two aviation security officers. He claims that he “assisted the subject by using minimal but necessary force” and that Dao’s injuries were a “direct result of his fighting with Aviation Officers.”
Long’s complaint describes him trying to get Dao to move by placing his hand on the doctor’s arm after he boarded the plane. But Dao swung his arms with a “closed fist” and continued to struggle as Long pulled him to the aisle, and then Dao lost his balance and fell, according to the complaint.
“Dr. Dao fell and hit his mouth on the armrest across from him which caused an injury to his mouth,” the lawsuit states.
Long says that United “knew or should have known that calling the Aviation Police on April 9, 2017 to remove a passenger who was refusing to leave their plane would require the use of physical force.”
Long also claims that Evans made a series of defamatory statements by calling the officers’ actions “completely inappropriate” and stating that the department did not “arm security staff for good reasons.”
In addition, Long accuses Evans of implying that he “sexually harassed and criminally stalked” her.
“Defendant Evans made these oral and written statements without a legitimate business purpose and with a high degree of awareness of their falsity and with the direct intention to harm Long,” the lawsuit states.
The counts in Long’s lawsuit include negligent training, defamation, and others. He seeks damages, attorney fees and costs against United, Evans and the Department of Aviation. His case was assigned to Judge Bridget McGrath.
A spokesperson for United Airlines declined to comment, and the Department of Aviation did not respond to a request for comment by press time.