FEBRUARY 3, 2012
Silverstein’s 9/11 Lawsuit Against Airline Continues
By Jacqueline Palank
One World Trade Center, 90 floors up so far and scheduled for completion in 2013.
Under a new agreement, the bankruptcy of American Airlines’ parent company won’t completely halt pending litigation from the World Trade Center’s developer over claims the carrier failed to prevent the hijacking of Flight 11 during the Sept. 11th terrorist attack.
In a long-running legal battle, World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein has accused AMR Corp. and its American Airlines subsidiary of failure to put into place safeguards — such as securing the cockpit — to prevent terrorists from seizing control of its airplane. Flight 11 crashed into the site’s North Tower with 81 passengers and 11 crew members on board.
AMR’s Chapter 11 filing last November automatically put a stop to all pending litigation against the company, including the World Trade Center suit. But under the deal AMR filed in bankruptcy court Thursday, plaintiffs may continue pursuing injury and damage claims “solely to the extent of available and collectible [insurance] coverage.”
Court papers show the agreement, which isn’t subject to court approval, precludes plaintiffs from trying to recover for “intentional conduct or punitive damages.”
Silverstein’s company, which leased the Twin Towers and two other World Trade Center buildings from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is seeking billions of dollars in damages for alleged negligence by the airline, according to the lawsuit. It is also seeking compensation for the lost rental income; the developer had signed 99-year leases for the space just two months before the attack.
The Silverstein lawsuit named additional defendants, including Boeing Co. The airplane manufacturer “defectively designed…the aircraft operated as Flight 11 by failing to install a system that would lock out unauthorized persons from the aircraft controls,” the suit contends.
AMR, American and Boeing have all denied the allegations of the litigation, which remained pending for other defendants even as AMR’s bankruptcy temporarily halted its involvement.
Silverstein Properties is now helping to rebuild the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. Its 52-story 7 World Trade Center building, to replace the building that collapsed after fires spread from the Twin Towers, opened in May 2006. It’s currently developing three more skyscrapers for the 16-acre site.
Construction also continues on the new One World Trade Center at a cost of $3.8 billion so far — making it by far the world’s most expensive new office tower, as the Journal’s Eliot Brown reported. The Port Authority is building the tower, which at 104 stories and 1,776 feet high will be the tallest building in the U.S. upon its expected completion at the end of 2013.