Massport could be on the hook for billions of dollars in damages as part of a lawsuit filed by the owners of the World Trade Center who accuse the agency of “abysmal” security at Logan Airport on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked two jets and unleashed their war on America.
The suit – one of the last linked to the attacks 11 years ago today – could give the country its first courtroom airing of airport security blunders, and might end in a staggering jury award.
“This could be bigger than your wildest imagination,” said attorney Don Migliori, a partner in the Motley Rice law firm in Providence, and an expert on 9/11 litigation. “You don’t have any idea what will happen if this goes to a jury. Anything can happen.”
Lawyers for World Trade Center Properties, which holds the lease on the defunct twin towers, yesterday appealed to federal Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in Manhattan to set a trial date immediately.
The judge has already ruled the twin towers property owners can seek $2.8 billion in damages. Double that could be awarded if interest is allowed – or even more if a jury rules the payout should be bigger.
World Trade Center Properties is asking the court to hold Massport, American Airlines [AMR], United Airlines and other aviation companies liable for the toppling of the twin towers and surrounding buildings.
In court papers, WTC lawyers argue the destruction could have been avoided if Massport responded to reports of strangers casing the airport – later proven to be the terrorists – or addressed lapses at airport checkpoints. Logan, they add, was a “Category X” airport “liable to the highest threat” of hijackers.
A Massport spokeswoman declined to comment on the suit last night, saying it was pending litigation.
If the case comes to trial, the court could unseal confidential details on the security failures at Logan, where 10 terrorists hijacked two planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175. Those planes – filled with 10,000 gallons of jet fuel each – slammed into the twin towers.
“This now opens the door for embarrassing information to surface again. Massport is not off the hook. Security at Logan was a joke,” said Brian Sullivan, a retired Federal Aviation Administration special agent who warned about the lapses months before the attacks.
WTC owners claim they have lost $8 billion-plus in the years since the attacks while they try to rebuild, according to court filings. They say they collected half of that in insurance.
The owners leased the twin towers for $2.8 billion – the sum the judge is allowing them to sue for – from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey just two months before the terrorist attacks.
The property owners are still paying on that 99-year lease while they rebuild. Two new towers are about a year from completion.
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