It appears that AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and United Continental Holdings Inc. will go to trial in a federal court over negligence claims tied to the hijacking of jetliners used in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As all Americans know, about 3,000 people were killed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. World Trade Center Properties LLC, which owned the twin skyscrapers in lower Manhattan destroyed in the attacks, sued the airlines in 2008 alleging negligence against the carriers for allowing terrorists to board and hijack the planes that were flown into the buildings. U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan ruled last month that a trial is required.
As we know all too well, on the day of the attacks, two planes were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center. American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. After the attacks, the owners sued insurers, eventually settling for $4.09 billion, the judge said. World Trade Center Properties sued the airlines seeking $8.4 billion, or the estimated cost of replacing the two towers as well as claims of negligence, the judge said in yesterday’s ruling. Judge Hellerstein said he had previously rejected the airlines’ bid for summary judgment.
Judge Hellerstein also limited the owners’ recovery and determined its destroyed lease on the day of the terrorist attacks to be worth $2.805 billion, the price the World Trade Center Properties agreed to pay the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for the lease a few months before the 2001 attacks, he said. The judge rejected the air carriers’ argument that since the buildings’ owners recovered $4.09 billion from insurance, World Trade Center Properties couldn’t also recover the $2.8 billion sought for the lease. Judge Hellerstein said in his ruling: “On this record, before trial, I am not able to make such findings.” The case is In Re September 11 Litigation, 21-MC-101, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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