Sept 11. airline trial will focus on specifics -judge
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. judge overseeing the only wrongful death trial stemming from the September 11 attacks said he will not let jurors hear a broad recounting of intelligence failures that preceded the terrorist strikes.
During a marathon court hearing in Manhattan on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said he will limit courtroom debate to specific events concerning the defendants in the case against United Airlines, a unit of United Continental Holdings Inc (UAL.N).
The trial, slated for November, stems from a 2002 lawsuit by the family of Mark Bavis, who perished when United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It is the only wrongful-death lawsuit of dozens filed after the attacks to make it to trial, as settlements were reached in most others.
"I don't envision this trial as just a recitation of all that happened on 9/11," Hellerstein said to a crowded courtroom. "We're not here to try the FBI, the CIA and the FAA. We're here to determine whether the airline and Huntleigh were negligent."
The Bavis family says United Airlines and Huntleigh USA Corp, the security firm contracted by the airline to run passenger screening at Logan International Airport, were negligent in allowing the five hijackers to board the flight.
United lawyer Jeffrey Ellis said his client could not be held responsible.
"They (the hijackers) didn't target Logan or United Airlines, they simply chose an airport and flights that were close to their target," Ellis said.
The case, which was much broader, has been narrowed over the years to those two defendants. In fact, judge Hellerstein on Wednesday dismissed all claims against the Massachusetts Port Authority, which until then was gearing up for trial.
The case is Bavis v. United Airlines Corporation et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 02-cv-07154.
For Bavis: Donald Migliori of Motley Rice.
For United Airlines: Jeffrey Ellis of Quirk and Bakalor.
(Reporting by Basil Katz; editing by Anthony Boadle)
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