AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and United Continental Holdings Inc. must face a federal trial over negligence claims tied to the hijacking of jetliners used in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed about 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, a judge ruled.
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 Tuesday said a trial is required.
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 Tuesday's ruling. Hellerstein said he previously rejected the airlines' bid for summary judgment, or a ruling before trial.
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 World Trade Center Properties agreed to pay the Port Authority for the lease a few months before the 2001 attacks, he said.
The judge Tuesday rejected the air carriers' argument that because the buildings' owners recovered $4.09 billion in insurance, World Trade Center Properties couldn't recover the $2.8 billion sought for the lease.
Matt Miller, a spokesman for American, said the airline has no comment about the case.
Desmond Barry, a lawyer for the airlines, didn't immediately return a call for comment.