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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Storms Affects South, Northeast Thanksgiving Travel; Former NHL Players Sue League Over Head Trauma; Should NHL Ban Fighting? Postal Workers Face Dangerous Conditions

Aired November 26, 2013 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's Tuesday, November 26th. Welcome to "LEGAL VIEW." The bags are packed, the cars are stuffed, the tickets are booked for more than had 43 million of us all planning to travel for Thanksgiving. And there's a mighty storm that's threatened to call the whole thing off.

This is what travelers are having to deal with right now. Snow is piling up in Cincinnati, Ohio. And it looks like a virtual white out in Pittsburgh. That's one of those tower-cams that's really not worth its cost on a day like this

There are other areas getting pounded with rain and ice, and that makes nothing safe.

We've got our holiday travel team on every angle, planes, trains, and automobiles, effectively. We're covering the airports.

Martin Savidge is at Hartsfield-Jackson International. Also covering the roads, Alina Machado is live in Atlanta.

And tracking where this storm goes next, meteorologist Chad Myers is putting in all of the overtime in the Weather Center on this holiday week.

All right, Martin, I want to start with you. There are so many people watching right now, crossing their fingers that theirs will be one of those flights that gets out.

And does it just depend on where you're starting, or is it the domino effect that's going to hit everybody?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it depends on where you're starting and, most especially, when you are starting.

For instance, If you're starting out of Atlanta or passing through Atlanta today, then the news is pretty good. In fact, we can show you that news.

Take a look at the arrival and departure board here, which is this big, blue screen. And for the most part the flights are on time.

I will point out, Ashleigh, that we've been starting to see a little bit of delay creep in, not huge, but you are seeing that at least on several dozen flights maybe delays of 20 minutes, maybe up to 30 minutes. The international flights are being delayed longer.

It's primarily a rain event that they're suffering down here, not the ice, and don't even say the word "snow" that some had feared.

I talked to the general manager of the airport just a short while ago, and this is his take on things now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOUIS MILLER, GENERAL MANAGER, HARTSFIELD-JACKSON ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Actually things are looking very good for us.

We're seeing that the traffic is -- you know, we did our weekly analysis of the passengers we expect to come this week, starting Monday going through next Monday. It's 1.8 million, and it's an increase of about 3 percent over what we had last year.

Tomorrow morning is looking like there could be more rain, but the temperatures are supposed to be staying higher.

So it's our understanding that it could drop earlier in the evening, but in the morning it's going to be a little bit higher. So we have our team on standby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: We should point out that there are some problem airports. In fact, we've put together a little map that can highlight a few of them at the moment. They include Atlanta, Dulles, Charlotte, Reagan and Baltimore.

The best advice and news that you can use is, of course, many people now have apps and ways to check into the airlines. Do that before you fly.

Give yourself 90 minutes, because it's not just the flights. Think about parking, think about traffic, think about other ways that weather impacts getting to and through the airport, not to mention the security lines.

And if I wrap it up now, Ashleigh, I can still make the 11:30 to Cancun.

BANFIELD: Well, guess what. I've got a question for you, so you're going to have to catch the next one.

That map you put up, Marty, it was great, except it's today's map, and of course, so many people are going to travel tomorrow. And that whole map, my guess is going to sort of move northward up the corridor.

Can people -- can they reschedule to try to get out today and not have to pay those awful fees just because everything is going to be just such a disaster tomorrow?

SAVIDGE: Right. Well, a number of the airlines, at least the major ones, we've heard of Delta and US Air, have said that if you go online and want to try and reschedule, they're going to waive the fees on doing that. And that may be a way to go.

But I will point out, you know, due to the high volume of traffic, you would think that just about every seat that could be booked has already been booked.

So if you're trying to get out on a different flight at a different time, I wish you the best of the luck on that. Be sure to pack your patience and a smile as your best defense. So far, people seem to be bearing up as best they can, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Well, I'll deliver this with a smile, Martin.

You're finished with me, now, sir, but as for Cancun, I think the next couple of shows have you booked, so I don't think you're going anywhere right away, anyway.

Nice sweater. Thank you, Martin Savidge.

I want to go out to the roads now. We said planes, trains, automobiles. So the roads, oh, dang, AAA is expecting 39 million drivers out there on those roads, and a lot of them are going to be awful.

Alina Machado is live in Atlanta. Take a look at her picture. Oh, Alina, you're the new kid. You got that assignment. I'm so sorry. Oh, lousy weather.

Hey, the roads are going to be trouble if it's rain, if it's sleet, if it's snow, for so many parts of the country.

Give me the rundown for anybody who's planning to hit the road in the next 24 hours.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, it's really going to depend on where you are, right?

If you're in the South, if you're here in Atlanta, for example, if you're driving through, you're probably going to be dealing with this, just a steady rain, wet, slick roads.

But if you go further north, you're going to be dealing with probably a wintry mix, possibly icy roads, snowy roads.

The AAA says more than 43 million people are going to be traveling for this Thanksgiving holiday, and most of those, about 90 percent, are going to be getting in their cars and driving somewhere.

So you can expect a lot of traffic, a lot of volume. And that, of course, is not a good thing when you factor in this weather.

A couple of areas that you might want to keep an eye out for. If you're going to be traveling on 40 between Knoxville and the North Carolina mountains, be careful. Especially in some of the higher elevations, you could be encountering some wintry mix and some slicker roads. Also, if you're heading south of Washington, D.C., on 95, later this afternoon, when that heavy rain is expected to move in, that could cause some problems.

So the bottom line is, if you're going to be driving, be aware of when where you're going, especially maybe even consider changing when you leave.

If you're going to leave today and the storm is hitting in that area where you're headed, consider leaving tomorrow.

It's really going to be a wait-and-see approach, Ashleigh, for many people -- many of the people who are going to be traveling out for Thanksgiving.

BANFIELD: But, you know, really, do your research before you head out on the road.

And my apologies for that assignment. Next year, you will be on that flight to Cancun. Alina, thank you and happy Thanksgiving to you, my friend.

All right, I said planes, trains and automobiles. Let's talk train now, because Amtrak is planning to shuttle 140,000 passengers just in the northeast corridor.

Across some of the routes, you see right there in red. And Amtrak is saying, are you ready, drum roll, not expecting to have any issues, so that might be the best mode of transportation.

And even if you're not traveling, you may very well have relatives who are traveling to you or traveling somewhere that you may be worried about.

So let's get the forecast. Chad Myers, I said, has been working overtime. That is an understatement.

Hey, AAA said, Chad, that 43.4 million of us Americans are going to be traveling 50 miles or more in the next couple of days, so you, my friend, are a very important person right now.

What's it looking like?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And considering my house and the station are about 12 miles apart and I'll be traveling all of those day, I am not one of those traveling 50 miles. That's the good news.

Something, you know -- something I haven't heard anybody talk about, and you and I spend so much time in airports.

If you're a pair of ballet flats away from carry-on or checked bag, carry on, because it's so much easier to change your plane if you're holding your bag than to try to find the bag after it's under the plane.

If your plane is canceled, if your plane is delayed, and they send you even to a different airline, you have all of your stuff. You can go.

If all the stuff is under the plane or on the train somewhere, it's not going to come to you where you want it to be. Try to pack -- and if you've got a pair of UGGs and the UGGs aren't going to fit in your carry on, wear them, and then carry on.

Don't try to put things under the plane if you don't have to.

Pittsburgh, it's been snowing there all day, up to 32, but there's still an awful lot of mess for you there right now. Temperatures are going up here, and this is going to be the case. Above here is snow, right? Pittsburgh.

Yeah. I know; it's snow and fog. It's been snowing a lot. The mountains around Pittsburgh are a nightmare. If you've never been there, the easiest way to go up is to go take the Duquesne Incline.

You know, I mean, the up-and-down mountains of Pittsburgh in a snow event, my parents grew up in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and they used to say that the salt trucks -- sand, salt, ash -- would have to back up the hills so that the back tires could get traction because the salt would be coming out the back of the trucks and trucks would be backing up the hills because they would need the traction just to get up those hills.

BANFIELD: Oh, wow.

MYERS: Here's the snow line tomorrow. Here's the snow line on Thursday. Here's the snow line on Friday. And Pittsburgh, you're always going to be in it.

That's the issue for the next couple of days. You know, it's not going a big event for I-75, I-95 down here in the South. It's just a rain event for you. Tornado watch for parts of Florida, believe it or not, like we need that.

But all this pink through here, that's where the icing is. A little bit farther to the north, that's where the snow is.

Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: You have just coined a brand-new classification, it is a "salt-truck- going-backyards" day.

Chad Myers, I'm going to check in with you in a little bit. I know the models keep changing, so if you could stick around maybe 20 minutes or so?

Excellent. Thank you very much.

CNN, by the way, has made this very crucial decision to laser focus in on Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the international airport there.

And if you have ever wanted to be in the belly of the beast, this is one fascinating inside look, you guys. On October 28th, more than three dozen journalists descended upon this airport and documented their journey after months and months of research.

You can check this whole thing out at CNN.com/ATL24. CNN.com/ATL24, and I'll tell you, the sausage-making inside that airport is absolutely fascinating, and you barely ever see any of it.

Ever been to a hockey game? If you're a hockey fan, and I am one, you expect some big hits. In fact, the place goes wild.

But those big hits can be mighty harmful, and now, some former NHL players have changed their tune and they suing the league for not doing enough to prevent brain damage and concussions.

Have we heard this one before? You bet. Going to get the LEGAL VIEW, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: The NHL had to know that this was coming, a class action concussion lawsuit, much like the one involving the NFL.

This time, 10 former NHL hockey players are banding together, alleging that the hockey league knew about the risks of head trauma, but did not inform or protect its player adequately.

Not only that, they say that the NHL creates a, quote, "culture of violence: by refusing to ban body-checking into the boards and fights like the really huge one that we saw break out last night between the L.A. Kings and the Vancouver Canucks.

Yeah, that's a little slice of heaven right there for hockey fans, but maybe not so much for the players.

The former players are arguing that the NHL actually goes so far as to hire enforcers, you've heard of them, goons, whose main job it is to fight on the ice during games.

They also claim that the league encourages fights like this in the form of video games and promotional videos.

Our Andy Scholes of the Bleacher Report joins me live now from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

I've often heard and I will say I've often used the expression, "I went to a fight and the hockey game broke out." And you know what? It is a massive part of the culture for everyone, players up until now and all the fans.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT, BLEACHER REPORT: Yeah, and that's right, Ashleigh.

And the NHL might argue that this lawsuit is pretty ironic, because whenever the topic has come up, whether we should ban fighting or not in the game of hockey, it's the players that say they don't want it to happen. In a poll just two year ago, 98 percent of the players in the league said we don't want fighting taken out of the game. It's tradition. It's the way the games has been played forever, we don't want it taken out. So the fact that they say that the NHL has created what they're saying is a culture of violence, it's the players have been supporting that culture of violence all along. And another interesting fact in this lawsuit is, the NHL has always tried to put in safety measures like the helmet, the visor, whatever it's been. It's the players who have always fought it at first before finally agreeing to it because they've always wanted tradition and comfort over the safety.

BANFIELD: Yeah I used to watch some of those games in the '80s and '90s and some of the old stalwarts refused to put the helmet on. They got grandfathered and they just keep on playing, missing teeth and all.

I just want to read this really quickly, it was the statement that the NHL gave out regarding series of lawsuits. It's from the commissioner, Bill Daly, he said, while the subject matter is very serious, we are completely satisfied with the responsible manner in which the league and the player's association have managed safety over time, including with respect to head injuries and concussions. We intend to defend the case vigorously and have no further comment at this time. But, you know, giving a statement is one thing. Has the league done anything else in particular leading up to now to address these concerns prior to the lawsuit?

SCHOLES: Well, the NHL was the first league in professional sports in the United States to put concussion programs in place. Way back in 1997 they put together groups to study concussions that happen in the game. And they were the first league to start suspending players for head to head hits during games, and they were also the first ones to put baseline tests in to diagnose concussions right after they happened on the ice. So, really the NHL has been kind of ahead of this from the beginning, but they haven't had issues like this arise. You know, of course now it's a big issue with the NFL lawsuit just happening a couple of months ago.

BANFIELD: Do you want to know something crazy, Andy? I am a hockey coach. I coach my two sons on the ice almost four times a week.

SCHOLES: I believe it.

BANFIELD: And I am not encouraging them to check or to fight. I'm one of those moms that I think is in the majority. We're not crazy about it. All right, Andy, thanks for that. I do appreciate your insight.

I also want to bring in some of the legal oomph to this story. HLN's legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson's here live, as well as CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. I got the A-list here.

You guys, the NFL when it came to its settlement with the players in their similar suit, did not admit anything. It ain't like we got a precedent setting case that this comes on the heels of. Is it going make any difference? Are they going to have to fight their own battle on this one?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, it makes a differences because - and by the way most of these settlements are done secretly and we don't know the details, but there's blood in the water, and I hate to refer to lawyers as sharks, as I'm sure Joey would feel the same way. But it's like you throw the chum in the water and the sharks start circling. And you have lawyers now looking at every organized sport saying we might have a class action lawsuit here. And that's why the NFL now is victim number two in the lawsuit business.

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: And quickly, jumping ahead of this lawsuit, just looking at the settlement value, I mean lawsuits are contentious. They can go on for multiple years of course. There's burdens of proof that you have to sustain.

A complaint has a bunch of allegations in there which are really horrific in terms of what the NHL knew and what they did for representative brain injury, but when you look at the settlement value, the NFL's lawsuit, three quarters of a billion dollars was the settlement. When you have an industry like the NHL that raises revenue of $3.3 billion a year, boy oh boy, the settlement value on this could be enormous.

BANFIELD: I have a friend who is like this huge hockey star in broadcasting up in Canada named Gordon Miller. The guy knows everything there is to know about hockey. He said to me this morning a lot of what the history of the players is going to come in to play. So you're playing junior A, and you're a big star on your team, you want to get as much ice time as you can. You get your bell rung, you see the doctor, and you don't tell your coach because you want back on the ice. We're relying on the honesty of a lot of players, generally speaking, throughout their earlier career before they hit the NHL.

CALLAN: That's a legitimate point. Obviously these players don't want to admit that they're hurt because they lose ice time. And therefore it's going to damage their career. By the way, same argument could be made with respect to NFL football players. Kids in high school, college players, it's macho, you got to be tough, you got to get back out and play. So those kids kind of are not admitting injuries too, so I think there's a similarity in both leagues.

JACKSON: And briefly Ashleigh, it also goes to the issue of causation. You have to establish was it the NHL that caused your injury, or was it some prior time through other hockey that you played in your life. Did that have a substantial amount to do with it as well.

BANFIELD: Or hey, what about a few bar fights? I mean come on, right?

JACKSON: I would love to see you coach.

BANFIELD: It's hilarious. I'm the worst coach ever.

CALLAN: How about the bar fights?

BANFIELD: I'm pretty good at that. Honestly I coach mites. They're like this big. Anybody can coach kids like that. By the way, the issue of fighting, my friend says that's going to be the big one to watch. The issue of the tacit approval of the fighting in the NHL. So we'll have to talk about this more. Thanks guys, appreciate it.

Don't go too far. Other stories I want you to cover in a little bit.

It's one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. And now $125,000 is being offered as a reward to find a person who killed a postal worker. This is one bizarre mystery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Okay. So I have some radar I want to show you. And those are very pretty colors of blue. Not if you're traveling. In fact just down in the Atlanta area, two of the interstates are all mucked up with rain. And there is concern that some snow might fall later today. We've got a big track onboard now with Chad Myers watching how everything is moving south to north for you. That's coming up on just a few moments. I also have some top stories that I would like to get to you. Sort of holiday week, feels like.

Doesn't mean that the news stops, though. A building contractor has been charged with murder in that botched building demolition in Philadelphia that killed six people. Remember when this happened? Griffin Campbell had been overseeing the demolition in June when a wall collapsed onto an adjacent thrift store, trapping people inside. His attorney says Campbell plans to plead not guilty to those third degree murder charges.

Champion downhill ski racer Bode Miller had to hand over his nine- month-old son to his former girlfriend in court after losing temporary custody yesterday. He still hopes to take that baby with him to the winter Olympics in February. A New York family court referee has to decide on final custody in a December 9th hearing.

Officials are offering a $125,000 reward for any information about the shooting death of a mail carrier over the weekend. It happened in Maryland. But there have been other attacks on letter carriers recently in different parts of the country. Here is CNN's Chris Lawrence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESOPNDENT: This mail carrier is being followed by the postal police. The Postal Service had to beef up protection in a suburban Washington neighborhood after this 26-year- old carrier was shot and killed while delivering mail at night.

Could this have been prevented?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

LAWRENCE: Union executive, Kenneth Lerch, delivered mail for 30 years but could finish his route before sundown. KENNETH LERCH, NATIONAL ASSOC. OF LETTER CARRIERS: The routes have doubled in size in the last five years. I said let's adjust them down to 8 hours. Carriers are working 10, 11, 12 hours a day.

LAWRENCE: That leaves them hustling in the dark to deliver the mail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been out till 10:00 at night. I have co- workers that have been out till 12 midnight.

LAWRENCE: Trying to read addresses and stay alert for potential threats.

LERCH: And you can't see a murderer coming up to you to shoot you in the prime of your life.

LAWRENCE: Being a mail carrier why is most dangerous civilian job in the federal government. Of the 54 workers killed on the job last year, one third were postal employees. Mail service was suspended for a week in Beaumont, Texas this summer after three girls attacked and tried to rob a mail carrier. And in Washington state, someone punched a carrier three times in the face as he wrapped up his route. Other carriers were hurt or killed in traffic accidents. The danger isn't limited to darkness, but officials claim it raises the stakes.

Have mail carriers raise their hand and say, this isn't right? We don't feel safe.

LERCH: Absolutely. Letter carriers all the time say I'm not going out in the dark, not in that part of town. And they're threatened with being fired if the don't go out.

LAWRENCE: The Postal Service had no comment on delivery hours, but is offering $100,000 reward for the information on the latest murder. Officials say the safety and well being of our employees remains our primary concern. The security of carriers is essential.

With the busy holiday season beginning, carriers worry about becoming the next target.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I deliver mail. Anybody can walk up on me.

LAWRENCE: : And say the easiest way to make them safe is get them off the street at sundown. Chris Lawrence, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE

BANFIELD: And those investigators will be out in the cold, rain, and possibly the snow. That's the radar folks. That's the reality. A massive holiday storm. You know, it's blanketing and creeping up the east. Blanketing a very big part of it too. Severe weather expert, Chad Myers has been watching and updating the models for you. He's going to give you the forecast.

Plus, if you get stuck at the airport, you have an outlet. Believe it or not, you have to be smart about this. Christine Romans is going to give you some amazing wickedly smart tips in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)