Judge Hellerstein: “strange, improbable” events in WTC7 lawsuit

“Hellerstein said it was not reasonable for Silverstein and Citigroup to foresee the ‘strange, improbable, and attenuated chain of events that led to 7 World Trade Center’s collapse and the crushing of Con Edison’s substation.’ He added: ‘Nothing in common experience of history could give rise to a reasonably foreseeable risk relating to the chain of events flowing from the terrorists and their hijackings to the destruction of the Con Edison substation.'”

Citing scope of 9/11, NY judge tosses 7 WTC suit
September 23, 2011 7:21 PM

(AP) NEW YORK — In tossing out a negligence lawsuit, a judge on Friday cited the “strange, improbable” events that destroyed a 47-story World Trade Center building a decade ago on Sept. 11, several hours after the 110-story twin towers fell.

The claims by the Consolidated Edison Co. of New York were “too farfetched and tenuous” to survive, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said.

The company had sued Citigroup Inc. and a company owned by developer Larry Silverstein for damages, saying negligence occurred when World Trade Center Tower 7’s commercial tenants were allowed to install diesel-fueled-backup generators that provided fuel that burned for hours after hijacked planes struck two nearby towers on the 16-acre development.

Tower 7 fell at 5:21 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, nearly seven hours after the other buildings collapsed. A Con Edison power station beneath Tower 7 was crushed when the building fell.

A message for comment left with Con Edison was not immediately returned.

“Con Edison, in order to succeed, must overcome the improbability of a long chain of events, one acting upon another,” Hellerstein wrote. “I hold that the chain was much too improbable.”

Silverstein’s company, 7WTCo., and Citigroup had argued that the events of Sept. 11 were unforeseeable and had caused the harm to the substation.

Construction of Tower 7 was completed in 1987. The diesel generator was installed in the building’s fifth floor after Salomon Brothers, which was acquired by Citigroup, received permission to install two diesel tanks with a capacity to store 6,000 gallons of fuel that attached to the generator through pressurized fuel lines. Salomon Brothers had said it needed the generator to power an around-the-clock trading floor.

Con Edison had maintained that fuel from the diesel tanks heightened the intensity of a fire that began when debris from the destruction of the other towers entered the building.

Hellerstein said it was not reasonable for Silverstein and Citigroup to foresee the “strange, improbable, and attenuated chain of events that led to 7 World Trade Center’s collapse and the crushing of Con Edison’s substation.”

He added: “Nothing in common experience of history could give rise to a reasonably foreseeable risk relating to the chain of events flowing from the terrorists and their hijackings to the destruction of the Con Edison substation.”

The judge said it was well established in New York law that a landlord or controller of a premises has no duty to protect tenants from unprecedented criminal acts of others.

Earlier this week, Silverstein announced that the new 52-story 7 World Trade Center, completed in 2006, is fully leased.
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See also:

Ground Zero’s ‘failed’ judge
July 28, 2010
“A few months back, Manhattan Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein threw a courtroom tantrum over the compensation deal for Ground Zero workers. The other night, he practically broke down in tears at a town hall meeting, confessing that he’d ‘failed’ those workers by not forcing the city to fork over an even bigger cash windfall. ‘For that, I will have to account to someone else,’ Hellerstein admitted, presumably raising his eyes to the heavens. So what is he? A judge — or an advocate?”

Last family suing over 9/11 says judge gutted case
SEPTEMBER 21, 2011, 2:23 P.M. ET
“In the letter released on Wednesday, though, the family said it reversed course because said U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ‘essentially gutted the case so that the truth about what led to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, would never be told at trial.’ ‘With the stroke of his pen, Judge Hellerstein very cleverly changed this lawsuit,’ the letter said. ‘The lawsuit was about wrongful death, gross negligence and a complete lack of appreciation for the value of human life. He instead made it a case about a federal regulation.’ . . . But much of the information that could provide solace to the families of the Sept. 11 victims — and force the airlines to bolster security to prevent future attacks — was sealed by Hellerstein, Migliori said in an interview with the AP. The family had called for all of the court documents to be publicly available at the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center site.”

Judge Hellerstein: Airlines can’t question FBI in 9/11 suits
07/17/2009
“A federal judge ruled Thursday that airlines and other companies in the industry that are being sued by families of terrorism victims can’t question FBI agents about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Hellerstein

On December 20, 2004, Hellerstein said he would deny a government request to delay a review of whether certain Central Intelligence Agency internal files related to Iraq should be made public.

On June 3, 2005, Judge Hellerstein ordered the government to release four videos from Abu Ghraib prison

Alvin Hellerstein, on July 7, 2008 ruled that “the city is not required to re-sift through debris from ground zero in search of bits of human remains and remove it to a space where a cemetery might be built (thereby leaving the material from ground zero at Fresh Kills landfills). Plaintiffs have no property right in an undifferentiated, unidentifiable mass of dirt that may or may not contain the remains of plaintiffs’ loved ones. Not every wrong can be addressed through the judicial process.” Hellerstein urged the city to build a memorial and nature reserve at the site.[2] Victims’ families’ counsel Norman Siegel criticized the ruling: “We are not prepared to leave hundreds of human remains of 9/11 victims on top of a garbage dump as their final resting place.”

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