Judge blocks 9/11 claims against airlines
The owners of the World Trade Center cannot demand billions of dollars more in insurance money for the September 11 attacks, a US federal judge has ruled.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled after listening to witnesses for the trade center owners and for the airlines linked to the planes that were hijacked in the attacks. The trial was arranged to decide whether the owners of the trade center complex can collect more than the nearly US$5 billion (NZ$6.3b) they've already received toward reconstruction.
Lawyers for the airlines argued that the claims made against them duplicate claims that have already been paid by insurance companies.
But Developer Larry Silverstein and World Trade Center Properties insisted through their lawyers that the aviation companies owed at least US$3.5 billion for letting hijackers board planes that destroyed three skyscrapers on September 11, 2001: the prominent twin towers, and 7 World Trade Center, a 47-storey building that caught fire after debris from one of the jet crashes pierced its facade. It collapsed hours later.
Hellerstein had said before the trial began this week that he would announce his ruling at its conclusion. There was no jury.
Attorney Roger Podesta, speaking for companies including United Airlines, US Airways, American Airlines and its parent company, AMR Corp, had argued that making aviation companies pay would amount to double compensation.
He said an US$8.5 billion total recovery would be more than 2½ times the fair value of the buildings that fell.
But attorney Richard Williamson, representing World Trade Center Properties, said damages from the attacks had totaled at least US$7.2 billion.
The trade center owners say it has cost more than US$7 billion to replace the twin towers and more than US$1 billion to replace the third trade center building that fell.
In court papers, both sides had accused the other of unfairly characterising their claims.
The developers' lawyers said they would appeal.