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Lawyer for United passenger: He was dragged 'like a sack of potatoes'

The attorney for Dr. David Dao, who was violently removed from a United Airlines flight, is hoping the incident will make all airlines take notice.
/ Source: TODAY

The lawyer for the passenger who was violently dragged off a United flight earlier this month believes that incident — and a recent one involving American Airlines — should send a clear message about the airlines' treatment of customers.

"We're hoping that Dr. Dao being taken off that plane like a sack of potatoes is going to resonate with people, and this latest incident with American Airlines will resonate with people,'' attorney Thomas Demetrio told TODAY in an exclusive interview Monday.

Dr. David Dao, 69, lost two front teeth, suffered a broken nose and "significant concussion" after he was forcibly hauled off a flight from Chicago on April 9, according to Demetrio.

"He's hurt,'' Demetrio said. "And he really is of the mindset that this is an example and that (a recent) American Airlines incident an example of why we need fairness, dignity and being treated right."

Demetrio also pointed a finger at United CEO Oscar Munoz for failing to directly apologize to Dao in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

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At this point, a face-to-face apology would go "probably not that far," and Dao is planning to sue the airline, Demetrio said.

"Mr. Munoz had that opportunity to publicly, first of all, apologize, and he didn't,'' Demetrio said. "Then he called the doctor belligerent. Then he finally said mea culpa. I think we're past that stage of meeting Mr. Munoz personally to say anything."

Video shot by fellow passengers showed a bloodied Dao being dragged down the aisle and removed from the plane.

He and his wife were waiting for takeoff to return to their home in Kentucky when Dao was randomly selected to give up his seat on a sold-out flight to make room for United employees. He was offered an $800 voucher in return.

After he refused to get up, security officers from the Chicago Department of Aviation violently pulled him out of his seat.

The three officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Dao's ordeal has been followed by another aviation controversy.

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America Airlines is investigating a scene captured on video Friday involving a flight attending and a crying female passenger.

The flight attendant grabbed a stroller from the woman, nearly hitting one of the two small children she was traveling with, witnesses said. When another passenger intervened, the male attendant grew belligerent, at one point saying,"Come, hit me," the video showed.

The woman has contacted Demetrio and he said he is now also representing her.

"The video that we just saw is a microscom of the entire problem," he said. "We've got a flight attendant out of control. We've got a distressed mother. We've got a passenger trying to protect that mother."

American apologized for the incident and said the attendant has been suspended.

"What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers," the airline said. "We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident."

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.