Airlines accused of 9/11 negligence must stand trial

New York: A hijacked commercial plane approaches the World Trade Center shortly before crashing into the landmark skyscraper 11 September 2001 in New York. (AFP Photo / Seth Mcallister)
On the eve of the eleventh anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, a federal judge has determined that two of the airline companies involved in the tragedy must stand trial to face charges of negligence.

US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled last week that AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and United Continental Holdings Inc. must appear in court to be tried over accusations that inattention on part of the companies contributed to the terrorist attacks that left around 3,000 Americans dead on September 11, 2001. Both American and United jets were hijacked by terrorists on 9/11, who then piloted the planes into the Twin Towers, creating the largest assault on American soil since World War 2 .

World Trade Center Properties LLC, the owner of the two landmark skyscrapers destroyed in the attack, attempted to sue the airliners in 2008 on the basis that negligence on their part allowed terrorists to board the planes and carry out their planned assault. On Tuesday last week, Judge Hellerstein finally agreed to allow the argument to be brought into court.

World Trade Center Properties are seeking $8.4 billion, the estimated cost of replacing the twin towers. United and American airlines had introduced a motion themselves that sought to prevent standing trial, but Judge Hellerstein rejected their plea. Previously, the property owners recouped a $4.09 billion settlement from their insurance companies in regards to the attack.

“The overlap between WTCP’s insurance recovery and its potential tort recovery presents issues of fact requiring trial,” court papers from last week’s ruling read. In an official statement released by WTCP in response, the owners say that poor security of the airlines is responsible for their losses, “But for the Aviation Defendant’s negligence, the terrorists could not have boarded and hijacked the aircraft and flown them into the Twin Towers,” thus accusing the United and American of wrongdoing.