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United Airlines Drags Man off Plane Forcefully – Can He Sue?

By: Gwen-Marie Davis Hicks, esq.

A passenger was physically dragged out of his seat after he refused to volunteer to exit the aircraft. United Airlines, claimed they overbooked their flight and needed volunteers to give up their seat. The passenger who is a doctor refused. The airlines demanded that he give up his seat, when he refused they called the police and physically dragged him off the plane against his will. The doctor was bloody, injured and was hospitalized for his injuries. Can the passenger sue? Can the airline be held liable for negligence? Did the police use excessive force?

When a passenger buys an airline ticket, the airline enters into a contract with the passenger. The airline made an offer when they listed the ticket price, and when the passenger accepted the offered price and paid the fare, a contract was formed between the passenger and the airline. The airline had a contractual duty to fly the passenger to the destination. If the airline overbooks, it cannot force a passenger off its airline. The airline breached contractual duty to it passenger. Not only, did the airline breach their contractual duty to the passenger, they injured, humiliated, and emotionally damaged this passenger.


The passenger was injured, hospitalized, embarrassed, and emotionally damaged by the agents of United Airlines. Flight attendants, pilots, bag carriers, baggage claim attendants, etc., are all considered agents of the airlines. An agent is an authorized person to act on behalf of airline. The airline has a duty to hire responsibly, train employees, and have procedures in place, to avoid these types of debacles. When the airline called the police, they excessive force with the passenger. The passenger did not use weapons, or dangerous objects, he simply refused to give up his seat he paid for. The force used on the passenger was excessive

In Personal injury cases, you must determine did the airline owe a duty to the passenger, did they breach that duty, was there causation, and if damages occurred. From the facts presented, I would say that the passenger has a great case against United Airlines and the police department who dragged the passenger off the plane with excessive force causing injuries.

Gwen-Marie Davis Hicks, Esq. is the managing partner at GDH LAW. GDH LAW is a business law and personal injury firm located in Lanham, MD. Contact GDH LAW at 301-769-6835.

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