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United Passenger's Family Speaks Out at News Conference. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired April 13, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] THOMAS DEMETRIO, ATTORNEY FOR DR. DAVID DAO & FAMILY: So, I have not heard a response from the city, so I don't know what their response is. It can't be good.

KRIS VAN CLEAVE, CBS NEWS: Was your point where your client could have --


DEMETRIO: You are?

VAN CLEAVE: Kris Van Cleave from CBS.


VAN CLEAVE: Was there a point, not to diminish or take away what happened at all, but there are many people who had asked, what if he had just complied with the officers? At a certain point, was there a moment where he could have complied with the uniformed officers asking him to get off the plane?

DEMETRIO: Could he have? Sure he could have. Could he have? Yes, he could have, but he need to get home. He's a physician. He had patients to see the next day. He didn't want to get up and comply and be sent home on -- I think the flight was 3:30 the next day. No, that was not good. His wife, by the way, is also a physician. She also had patients to see.

Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- statement from United earlier this week that said that Dr. Dao attempted to strike law enforcement, attempted to strike law enforcement. How do you respond to that?

DEMETRIO: I missed your question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We've seen a statement from United earlier this week that said that Dr. Dao attempted to strike law enforcement --


DEMETRIO: To strike?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Strike law enforcement. How do you respond to that?

DEMETRIO: Never happened. Never happened. I think many of you might have seen the second video of the 19-week-old -- I mean, 19-week- pregnant woman behind Dr. Dao, Ms. Cummings, with her 2.5-year-old sitting on her lap. And you can see Dr. Dao not striking anybody, trying to strike anybody. He just wanted to go home.

Yes, sir.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ryan Young from CNN. You've had a chance to talk to some of the people on the plane. Could you give me some of the reactions that you've gotten from people who were on that plane just about their visceral reaction to what was happening as it was going on?

DEMETRIO: They couldn't believe it. They couldn't believe it. Now, I noted yesterday, I guess, that United is paying each of the passengers on that plane their full fare. And one wonders why they would do that. But I can tell you, it's not going to keep these people quiet for what they observed. Ms. Cummings herself, who contacted us, said it wasn't until these three guys came and violently took him away that she was fearful for her own safety. And when passengers see this scene, if you will, I don't know what they were thinking, but I know the ones that have contacted us were concerned and worried. My word again, angst.

YOUNG: This potential lawsuit --


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Three apologies. How did you feel about the three apologies from United? Were you --


DEMETRIO: The apology?


DEMETRIO: I thought it was staged. I thought it was, you'd better get out there and correct what you said originally, I think you ought to make it sound like you mean it. I didn't get that feeling.


DEMETRIO: You are?

ALEX PEREZ, ABC NEWS: Alex Perez with ABC News. Besides settling this potential lawsuit, what is it that you want United to do moving forward?

And for those of us who don't know your father and just met him through this video, besides being a good father, what kind of person is he? At that moment, what was going through his mind? Was he trying to defend himself, back himself out of a corner? Walk us through that.

DEMETRIO: I think I've answered that question. I told you what he was feeling as he was being dragged down.

What do we hope United does? The right thing! Obviously. I think the whole culture has to change. I think -- what was the name of that movie? "Planes, Trains, Automobiles" with steve Martin? Anybody remember that, where he has his encounter with the lady at the counter? It was a rent-a-car person. It's really funny. And what we want -- we don't want that anymore. We want, whether it's a rental car company or a grocery store or, it doesn't matter, our doctors, our health care providers. Dr. Dao, by the way, has four children who are doctors, OK? It's service. It's service. It should be service with a smile. And it should be, as I've mentioned -- I think they have to stop the over-overbooking. I think they need to have more statistics to figure out, OK, how many tickets can we really overbook or how many seats do we have to keep available in case some crew members have to get somewhere else.

PEREZ: -- was that he had to get back for?

[11:35:12] DEMETRIO: I only know what I've read, and that is that each of these four individuals had, from Louisville, flights taking them hither and yon the next morning.

Yes, sir?

ANDREW TANGEL, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I'm Andrew Tangel from the "Wall Street Journal." Could you elaborate on the types of patients, how many patients, and when he had to see them. And also his broader medical practice? How many offices he practices at? Does he practice with your mother, Crystal?

CRYSTAL PEPPER, DAUGHTER OF DR. DAVID DAO: Yeah, we're going to keep his professional life -- that's not the purpose of this conference today.

TANGEL: There was a follow-up. The medical board in Kentucky says that he's only allowed to practice one day a week at the office of Dr. Godfried in Elizabethtown, but that office said he doesn't work there. So, could you please elaborate on --


DEMETRIO: No, I won't elaborate on his professional practice as it exists today.

Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- with Telemundo, Chicago. Do you have right now any particular data or investigation if anybody gave the order to use extreme force in case somebody didn't want to leave their seats? DEMETRIO: I don't. I hope no one gave that order.


DEMETRIO: Wait, Andy.

JESSE KIRSCH, REPORTER, ABC 7: Jesse Kirsch with ABC 7 here in Chicago. Going back to the security questions, it's one thing to be talking about refusing to get up and exit the plane with the officer, but a lot of people have also been pointing out the fact that Dr. Dao then ran back on to the airplane.


KIRSCH: Do you see any difference between those two series of actions, or do you see them as one --


DEMETRIO: I do. I see a difference. Because, as I've stated, the man suffered a concussion. He has absolutely zippo, nada, memory of going back on to that airplane.

KIRSCH: He does not remember returning to that airplane?

DEMETRIO: Not a lick of it. No, sir.


Yes, sir?



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A lot of the behavior of the passengers on the plane and the staff of that airplane giving a lot of authority to that staff. Do those regulations need to change, in your opinion, in regard to situations like this?

DEMETRIO: I don't think so. I think there has to be regulations governing -- somebody has to have control, and it's got to be the pilot, and the flight crew have to follow the captain's orders. So, obviously, we're going to learn, I'm sure the captain at some point called on the aviation department, police force to come in and do that which Mr. Munoz said yesterday will never, ever happen again.

Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- from "Chicago Crusader" newspaper. Might this end up being a class-action lawsuit?

DEMETRIO: No. Class-action lawsuits are a whole different breed, and I don't believe this will be. I'm hoping -- I'm hoping that Dr. Dao is the only one who has ever been so physically forcefully, violently removed from an airplane. I'll be shocked if someone else surfaces. ANDRY WILSON, REPORTER, LOUISVILLE COURIER JOURNAL: Andy Wilson from

the "Louisville Courier Journal." Did the United crew make errors before Dr. Dao is removed from the plane? If so, what were they? And should the captain have been involved in the negotiation for people to leave?

DEMETRIO: Yeah, I think -- and I think airlines try to do this routinely, and that is, all issues of overbooking are usually done at the counter, outside the jetway to the plane. So, it's, thankfully, few and far between, where actually, after everybody's seated, then the removal begins. So, I don't know that the United employees did anything wrong. I don't know why it took until after everybody was seated for this to unfold. Again, I've told you, I've gotten so many inquiries from people where, people in first class, recently, United Airlines, were removed and they were told -- this is what they were told. First class passengers. Someone more important needs this seat. And they were kicked off the plane. First class. Frequent flyer. Miles Plus and all that stuff. Red Carpet Club. Gone. For someone more important. So, I don't know. I don't believe there's -- I think it's a case-by-case -- maybe it's case-by-case. I don't know if there are any standard procedures. We're going to get them, if they exist.

Yes, sir?

[11:40:25] ANDY FIES, REPORTER, ABC NEWS: My name's Andy Fies with ABC News.

And, Crystal, a question for you. Mr. Demetrio has said that your father understands that he is going to be the guy who stands up for passengers going forward, that they are going to be vocal about the whole subject of what passengers are entitled to. So, rather than this lawsuit being about an individual incident, it seems that your attorneys are elevating it into something much bigger. Is your father ready to be a symbol?

DEMETRIO: She doesn't know.

FIES: Mr. Demetrio, I'd direct the question --


DEMETRIO: You know, I believe that's the way it's going to pan out. Someone asked what else do you hope to, you know, accomplish here. I hope that's what happens. I hope he becomes a poster child for all of us. Someone's got to. You know, when we're --



FIES: Is he prepared for what might come with that?

DEMETRIO: He doesn't -- I don't -- I hope he is. I certainly will work with him on that. I certainly will be, as will Steve, as will his family. Yeah, dad, you're the guy. Someone's got to do it. Because what I've learned is most people, yeah, they're treated rudely, they're bullied, there's discourtesy all over the place. That doesn't rise to running to the courthouse and bringing a lawsuit. So, it took something like this to, again, get a conversation going, and I think it will continue.

Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- "Chicago Tonight," WTTW. By law, the airline is allowed to offer up to $1,350 to get a passenger to voluntarily leave. What was the final amount that they had offered Dr. Dao? What was the final offer that they had made?

DEMETRIO: I think it was $800. $800.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) They did not offer enough to get him to voluntarily leave, they could have offered more?

DEMETRIO: No, they could have offered $3,000, OK? He and his wife needed to get back. OK? So, they weren't the ones. But you've got to figure -- I don't know, $1,300, yeah, I'll go tomorrow afternoon. Maybe someone would have done that. We'll never know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: To verify something you said earlier, did Mr. Demetrio, clarify something you said earlier. Did Dr. Munoz or United, you said you did not speak to them, but have they reached out to you?

DEMETRIO: They have not reached out. I thought we were clear.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He said in an interview with ABC News that he left a voice mail.

DEMETRIO: I'm saying he misspoke. He misspoke.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He did not leave a voice mail?

DEMETRIO: Yeah. Is that clear? He did not. Or did his people. So.

That's fine. I have no quarrel with that. I have no quarrel with that.

UNIDENTIFED REPORTER: Do you want to hear from him?

DEMETRIO: Not really. I saw him. I saw him yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would it change something if he called the Dao family or Mr. Dao himself?

DEMETRIO: I don't know what it would change.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you want him to?

DEMETRIO: Not really. I mean, I'm not looking for a telephone conversation with Mr. Munoz. OK? I don't believe that would be fruitful. I'd rather he spend his time changing the culture of United Airlines, OK? Chatting, we -- by the way, his public apology to the family we accept with gratitude, OK? But I don't need --



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But you're saying he lied yesterday, was untruthful about communicating with --


DEMETRIO: That wasn't my word. I said he misspoke. I don't know -- maybe he thought he did. I don't know. But he did not. OK?

OK. Somebody who hasn't --


JUDE-ANN HANNAH, REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: -- planning on filing this lawsuit in federal court or state court?

DEMETRIO: I'm sorry, you are?

HANNAH: Sorry, Jude-Ann Hannah of Bloomberg. When do you plan on filing the suit?

DEMETRIO: When our investigative work is done, we will file suit. I don't really have a clue when that will be. We have two years to file it. I promise it won't be that long, but it will be filed in state court, circuit court of Cook County.

Yes, ma'am?

MARNEY PIKE, REPORTER, THE DAILY HERALD: Marney Pike with "The Daily Herald." Was Mrs. Dao on the flight with him, and had she been asked to give up her seat as well?

DEMETRIO: Well, I think -- I -- yeah, I guess, as a couple, they were asked to do that, right.

Anything else?

[11:45:09] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Obviously --


DEMETRIO: Wait, wait.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: To follow up on that, can you just clarify? Because previous reports have said that Dr. Dao was the sole passenger -- (INAUDIBLE)

DEMETRIO: I actually don't know how it occurred, but I do know that one husband and one wife would not have left each other. So --

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you bring that up? There's been all this talk about how he had to see patients tomorrow. Did he point out that his wife was on the plane with him and was going to be going home without him at that point if he was to get off?

DEMETRIO: I don't have an answer for you, I don't know, but I'm sure. I'm sure he did.

Yes, sir? Right there.


DEMETRIO: You've got to give your name again.

MITCH SMITH, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sure. Mitch Smith with "The New York Times." I'm wondering if you could fill us in on the timeline for that day. Was he making a connection in Chicago? Had he been visiting here? Were there issues on other flights? And is Dr. Dao still in the Chicago area or back in Kentucky?

DEMETRIO: Dr. Dao is in a secure location. I must tell you, I can't tell you where he is because you guys are really good at what you do, and, you know, our plea is, please leave the guy alone. Really. Let him go.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can we anticipate him speaking about this at all?

DEMETRIO: Say it one more time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can we anticipate him speaking out about this at all?

DEMETRIO: Yes. I pledge to you that will happen, but not now. OK?

TANGEL: Question about the timeline for the day. Could you --



DEMETRIO: "Wall Street Journal," as I recall?

TANGEL: Yes, Andrew Tangel. Can you please tell us where he and his wife were coming from and how long they had been traveling and also, was she not seated next to him on the plane? Because she's not in some of the videos.

DEMETRIO: Well, do you --


PEPPER: My dad was making a connection in Chicago from a trip to California.

TANGEL: Vacation, business? PEPPER: Vacation.

DEMETRIO: Anybody over here I'm ignoring?

JESSICA DENOEF ROE (ph), REPORTER, NBC 7: Jessica Denoef Roe (ph) with NBC 7 Chicago: Yes, back here.

DEMETRIO: Didn't mean to.

ROE: Jessica Denoef Roe (ph) with NBC 7 Chicago. Just a clarification here. You say that you wholeheartedly accept the apology from United, but yet, you say you think it was staged as well.

DEMETRIO: Yeah. I think his people, P.R. people say, we're taking a beating here. I mean, United has been taking a beating, OK? And that's not our goal to beat them up. Our goal is just to let the system work, OK? But they have been taking a beating, and I think, yeah, he was told, get out there, go on a national -- he picked "Good Morning, America," OK? I'm sure he would have picked Charlie Rose, if he could. The fact is --



DEMETRIO: I'm sure. So, he was sought after, and he had to get out, he had to apologize! Really. Think about it. Look at the video! I mean, even our president last night said that was horrible! Spicer said it. Anybody that looks at it says it.

ROE: So, how do you accept a staged apology, in your opinion?

DEMETRIO: Because it's the right thing to do. He apologized. We accept that. But that's not going to let them off the hook here. Yes, sir.

YOUNG: Ryan Young from CNN again. When the doctor returns to Kentucky, will he fly commercial or via another way?

DEMETRIO: Well, I'll tell you what he told me yesterday. He has no interest in ever seeing an airplane. My guess is he'll be driven to Kentucky. OK? And I don't really blame him.

Yes, ma'am?

LAUREN ZUMBACH, REPORTER, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Lauren Zumbach with "The Chicago Tribune." just following up on an earlier question, was his wife also on that flight and was she also bumped from it?

DEMETRIO: She was on the flight. She wasn't bumped. I don't think she was bumped.

Do you know?

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: She wasn't bumped, but she was told to leave the plane once he was removed. KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That was something! We're listening right

there to a lengthy press conference with the attorneys for Dr. David Dao. His daughter there also, Crystal Pepper, speaking to the media about the lawsuit, that clearly, they will eventually be filing. A lot to discuss here.

CNN aviation analyst and former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation is here. Mary Schiavo, also has represented passengers in their lawsuits. And also joining me, aviation attorney and CNN analyst, Justin Green; and P.R. and branding expert, Marvet Britto.

That was something, Justin Green. He clearly -- it seemed, as you said, he's laying out his closing argument right there before the press. What kind of case did he lay out?

[11:50:22] JUSTIN GREEN, CNN ANALYST & AVIATION ATTORNEY: I think he laid out a very compelling case, and I think United has a major problem. One of the things I told you offset or off-cam was Cook County, Illinois, the court that he said he's going to file his lawsuit in, is a very good lawsuit, if you're a plaintiff. And the last place on earth that United Airlines is going to want to face a lawsuit that's going to claim compensatory damages, which we just learned are more significant than I think anyone believed -- concussion, lost teeth --


BOLDUAN: On the injuries.

GREEN: And also, a punitive damage claim. So, I think Mr. Demetrio laid out a very good case.

Justin, if you're looking at this today, you're an aviation attorney, what dollar about are they talking about?

GREEN: Multiple millions of dollars. I'm very jealous. I wish I had the honor to represent Dr. Dao's family.

BOLDUAN: And Tom Demetrio offering a master class of how to lay out your case in front of the court of public opinion.

Mary, you, as a viewer, were sitting and listening to this as well. If you are United, what's going through your mind right now after hearing that press conference?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: What often happens -- and I've had many cases like this and seen it many time --, is the video disappears and it's important to get that from the airplane, because it might be seen many times, is the video disappears and it's important to get that from the airport because it might be the airport's video rather than United to secure that evidence. And so United is in a box. The evidence can't disappear. The federal regulations that might have protected them do not, because this was not a denied boarding. This was booting people and breaking a legal contract with a passenger to put on crew. So United doesn't have the federal law to fall back on. And now they've moved to secure the evidence. United's in quite a pickle. And they should have reached out immediately to apologize. And to help.

BOLDUAN: Well, Marvet, to that point, we heard a couple things about the apology. We heard a public apology that the CEO of United offered on ABC in a couple different ways after some non-apology. The attorney for David Dao says he doesn't believe the CEO's apology and he also says even though the United CEO said to abs the ABC they reached out to David Dao, the attorney said no, they have not.

MARVET BRITTO, P.R. & BRANDING EXPERT: This is definitely a pickle for United because in instances of crisis, it's smart to respond in a proactive way. At that point, you can control the message and you can control what the public hears about what took place. The CEO of United didn't do that and he was slow to react, slow to respond. Therefore, the video was playing to the public. And that is all the public saw. So it's very hard to pivot from that. It took him long which is why it seems insensitive and insincere. It's going to be difficult for them to recover because there was excessive force. And again, this is an airline whose core values are built on fly the friendly skies. So Oscar should have immediately apologized to the family

BOLDUAN: Marvet --

BRITTO: -- while he gathered the intel.

BOLDUAN: Let's play one of the sound bites with the CEO of United in speaking to ABC News. Let's listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Do you think he's at fault in any way?

OSCAR MUNOZ, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: No. He can't be. He was a paying passenger sitting on our seat in our aircraft and no one should be treated that way. Period.


BOLDUAN: So right there, the CEO is saying that David Dao didn't do anything wrong. And he hesitated.

From here on out, after seeing what we just saw play out in Chicago at that press conference, can United do anything to stop this lawsuit from happening or make this go away?

BRITTO: They can settle. Because that's really about all they can do at this point. They've been convicted in the court of public opinion which I've said many times is the most dangerous court. They should have gotten ahead of this. Not only do they have a problem with the doctor and this family, they have other passengers who could very likely step forward from the sound of the press conference it seems as though to your point this could be more than just him stepping forward and going against United Airlines. (CROSSTALK)

BRITTO: And he also mentioned all of the customers and even United employees who are --


BOLDUAN: Who he said has reached out to him.

BRITTO: Mary, as Justin mentioned, we learned about the injuries that David Dao suffered. He was discharged last night. He suffered a concussion, a broken nose. He lost two front teeth. And he's going to be undergoing reconstructive surgery. What does that say?

SCHIAVO: Well, hugely violent encounter and hugely unnecessary. What it says is not only does he have physical injuries, but the potential of a brain injury which is a huge damage claim.

And one other thing I wanted to add, they said we don't know if this will be a class action. I don't know that either, but I can tell you this goes on virtually every day where paying passengers, and it's not an overbooking situation, but they're kicked off for crew. I witnessed it myself. I saw it a couple months ago. Some crew ran up after the plane was boarded and the gate agent says, do you want me to kick some people off.


SCHIAVO: So I think this is the tip of the iceberg and it will require some regulatory change.

[11:55:30] BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for joining me. That's not the last we're going to hear of that attorney or this pending lawsuit.

Thank you all so much.

We're also following breaking news. An American-led coalition strike mistakenly killing more than a dozen U.S-backed fighters in Syria. New details on what happened.

Plus, the man accused of launching the chemical attack against his own people speaking out for the first time since the chemical attack and since the U.S. strikes that followed. Why the Syrian dictator says he didn't do it.

And President Trump flip-flopping on more than half a dozen issues in 24 hours. What's behind the changes, and why he suggests being president is harder than he thought.

We'll be right back.


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