April 11, 2018 / 6:06 PM / a year ago

Chicago aviation officer who dragged man from plane sues United, city

April 11 (Reuters) - A former Chicago aviation police officer, who had dragged a 69-year-old male passenger off a parked United Airlines plane last year in an incident that drew international outrage, is suing the airline and the city that fired him.

James Long, one of several officers involved in dragging Dr. David Dao off a United flight on April 9, 2017, to make room for airline employees, on Tuesday sued United Airlines, Chicago's Department of Aviation and its commissioner, Ginger Evans. The lawsuit, filed in the circuit court of Cook County, Illinois, alleges he was not properly trained on how to use force.

Video footage of the incident recorded by other passengers showed Dao being dragged by Chicago aviation police, including Long, down the aisle of a parked United Airlines plane. Dao had been asked to give up his seat to airline employees on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, and he had refused.

United originally blamed the incident on having overbooked the flight, and subsequently changed its policy on how to handle overbooked flights.

Dao suffered a concussion, a broken nose and lost two front teeth as a result of the fracas. He later settled for an undisclosed sum with the airline, which apologized for how he was treated.

Long was fired following the incident, which quickly went viral online, sparking outrage against United and the U.S. airline industry for its history of customer service failures.

In the suit, Long maintains he had used "minimal but necessary force" to remove Dao, and United knew or should have known that involvement of aviation police in the incident could result in "the use of physical force."

Long is seeking damages relating to his loss of salary as an aviation officer, benefits including vacation, insurance coverage and retirement plans, punitive damages, as well as legal costs, according to the lawsuit.

Neither Evans nor spokesmen for United Airlines immediately returned a request for comment. (Reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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