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United Airlines reaches settlement with passenger dragged from plane

David Dao was forcibly removed from a flight in Chicago on April 9

Posted: April 27, 2017
Last Updated: April 27, 2017

Passenger Dr. David Dao was dragged off a United Airlines flight at Chicago O'Hare International Airport on April 9. On Thursday, lawyers for Dao announced a legal settlement with the carrier had been reached. (Jayse D. Anspach/Reuters)

A Kentucky doctor who was dragged off a United Airlines flight after he refused to give up his seat to crew members has reached a settlement with the airline for an undisclosed amount.

David Dao's legal team announced the settlement Thursday in a brief statement. The agreement includes a provision that the amount will remain confidential.

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Cellphone video of the April 9 confrontation aboard a jetliner at Chicago's O'Hare Airport sparked widespread public outrage over the treatment of Dao.

The footage showed airport police officers pulling the 69-year-old father of five from his seat and dragging him down the aisle. His lawyer says he lost teeth and suffered a broken nose and a concussion.

Thomas Demetrio, a lawyer for Dao, praised United CEO Oscar Munoz.

"Mr. Munoz said he was going to do the right thing, and he has," Demetrio said in a release. "In addition, United has taken full responsibility for what happened on Flight 3411, without attempting to blame others, including the City of Chicago. For this acceptance of corporate accountability, United is to be applauded."

Reuters reported that the settlement also releases Republic Airways from any responsibility. Republic was operating the flight from which Dao was removed.

News of the settlement came after United announced changes on how it will handle bumped passengers.

The settlement with Dao means United will not face the lawsuit that many observers expected. Such a court battle could have been costly, both in legal bills for United and in further public relations damage.

United also issued a brief statement, saying it was pleased to report "an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard Flight 3411."

 Demetrio said the settlement also averts any lawsuit against the city of Chicago. Airport police officers who work for the city pulled Dao off the jet.

The incident arose from a common air travel issue — a fully booked flight. Wanting to seat four crew members, the airline offered passengers $400 and later $800 to voluntarily relinquish their seats. When no one did, United selected four passengers at random.

Three people got off the flight, but Dao refused, saying he needed to get home to treat patients the next day. The airline then summoned the officers, who forcibly removed Dao.

The incident was a major embarrassment for United.

United's response in the immediate aftermath was widely criticized. Munoz first defended the airline and described Dao as "belligerent" before publicly apologizing days later and vowing to do better.

The three airport police officers who dragged Dao from the plane worked for the Chicago Department of Aviation. They were placed on leave.

The agency released a report April 24 in which the officer who pulled Dao from his seat, James Long, gave his version of events. Long said Dao was verbally and physically abusive and was flailing his arms before he lost his balance and struck his mouth on an armrest.

The department's roughly 300 officers guard the city's two main airports but are not part of the regular Chicago police force. They receive less training and cannot carry guns inside the terminals.

With files from CBC News