* American Airlines claims Sept. 11 hijackings were 'act of
* Judge caps damages at $2.8 bln
By Bernard Vaughan
NEW YORK, Feb 20 The leaseholder of the World
Trade Center properties is asking a U.S. federal judge to reject
arguments that American Airlines is not liable for damages
stemming from the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings because the attacks
were an act of war.
Larry Silverstein filed court papers Wednesday asking U.S.
District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan to dismiss that
line of defense by the airline and its parent, AMR Corp
, in the developer's long-running negligence lawsuit
Silverstein has sought to hold American and United Airlines,
now United Continental Holdings Inc, responsible for
damages from the 2001 attacks for allegedly failing to provide
adequate airport and airline security.
The request comes ahead of a ruling by the judge in a
separate case to determine whether an "act of war" clause of a
federal statute provides a defense to liability claims. If
Hellerstein were to rule that defense applied, it potentially
could bolster the airlines' defense against Silverstein.
The hijackings killed more than 3,000 people in New York, at
the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and in Pennsylvania.
The case is one of the few remaining lawsuits arising from the
attacks. Hellerstein has presided over most of them.
In the new court papers, Silverstein contends AMR and
American Airlines should be stopped from the "act of war"
defense because the airline and its insurers "repeatedly and
explicitly promised Congress, regulators and the American people
that they would not use act of war to avoid paying claims" after
American Airlines has offered several defenses in the
Silverstein case, including that the developer's "alleged
damages were caused by an act of war," according to a 2008 court
filing by the airline.
In the same court filing, the airline also said it was in
compliance with federal safety regulations, which precludes a
finding of liability against it; that the alleged damages were
caused by the negligence or intentional misconduct of parties
for whom it is not responsible; and that neither American nor
its parent caused the alleged damages.
"This motion by the Silverstein interests has no factual or
legal support," American Airlines spokesman Sean Collins said in
a statement. "American Airlines has defended itself with all
defenses available at law against the baseless attempt by the
Silverstein entities to hold American responsible for the
terrorist attacks of September 11."
As part of the Sept. 11 litigation, Hellerstein in November
found that United Continental Holdings was not liable for the
collapse of 7 World Trade Center because of airport security
The judge separately has capped potential damages in
Silverstein's case against the airlines at $2.8 billion, the
amount that the developer paid for the World Trade Center
leases. Silverstein already has recovered $4 billion from his
In the other case involving the "act of war" defense, the
2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York last May asked
Hellerstein to determine whether cleanup of asbestos and other
contaminants is subject to "an act of war" defense under a 1980
federal environmental statute known as the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
That lawsuit pits property owner Cedar & Washington
Associates LLC against the Port Authority of New York and New
Jersey. Cedar & Washington is seeking costs for ridding a
downtown Manhattan apartment building of ground-up concrete,
asbestos and other particles following the attacks.
On Feb. 11, the appeals court suggested it might take up the
case again if Hellerstein has not issued a decision in 30 days.
Attorneys for Silverstein and American Airlines declined to
The cases are World Trade Center Properties LLC, et al. v.
United Airlines Inc; World Trade Center Properties LLC, et al.
V. American Airlines Inc, et al, v. American Airlines Inc et
all, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Nos
08-3719 and 08-3722.