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World Trade Center can't collect damages from airlines, judge rules

By Allison Malloy, CNN
updated 5:11 PM EDT, Thu July 18, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The judge says the World Trade Center developers were trying to "double dip"
  • The developers had sought damages from the airlines involved in 9/11
  • The airlines argued insurance payments had already covered the losses

New York (CNN) -- A judge ruled Thursday that the World Trade Center's developers cannot collect billions in damages from companies whose planes were commandeered in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

World Trade Center Properties, or WTCP, first sued United Airlines, American Airlines and other aviation companies in 2004, claiming their negligence resulted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center towers.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein agreed with the airlines, who argued the developers were in essence trying to "double dip" by getting money from the airlines after collecting from their insurance policies.

Last month, Hellerstein -- who frequently hears cases related to 9/11-- denied a motion by the airlines to have the case dismissed based on the $4.9 billion in insurance payouts to WTCP since 2001.

According to a complaint filed on behalf of WTCP, owned by Larry Silverstein, the September 11 attacks were the result of the airlines' failures to implement safeguards that would have prevented the terrorist attacks.

In the complaint, WTCP claimed that the aircraft lacked proper cockpit doors that would have prevented unauthorized people from entering, as well as an alarm system that would have notified the government of such events.

American Airlines Flight 11 was the first jet to slam into the World Trade Center. Hijackers flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the other tower.

The lawsuit also named private security contractors at Boston's Logan Airport and the Portland, Maine, airport as defendants for failing to prevent people from boarding flights with dangerous weapons at their screening facilities.

The hijackers of the planes that hit the twin towers boarded at those airports.

"Every step of the way, defendants were negligent and reckless," the complaint stated, "These breaches of duty proximately caused the destruction of One World Trade Center, Five World Trade Center and Seven World Trade Center on September 11. "

According to court documents, WTCP said it has spent more than $8 billion to replace the twin towers, which they have been obligated to continue paying rent on to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In court, the aviation defendants argued that insurance payments were made to compensate WTCP for economic loss after the destruction of the towers and that the same economic loss is what the WTCP was seeking damages for, thereby making their claims invalid.

Silverstein's company had said that it would use proceeds from a ruling in its favor to build 2 World Trade Center, next to the current Freedom Tower.

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