U.S. News

American, United settle World Trade Center developer's 9/11 claims

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The developer of the World Trade Center in New York has reached a $95.2 million settlement of all claims against American Airlines Group Inc, United Continental Holdings Inc and other aviation defendants stemming from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, which involved the carriers’ hijacked planes.

A United Airlines jet takes off from Washington National Airport in Washington, U.S., August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Insurers will cover the payout to entities affiliated with Larry Silverstein and his Silverstein Properties, according to settlement papers filed on Tuesday with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The accord requires approval by U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who oversees much of the civil litigation stemming from the attacks. It would have totaled $97 million had two of American’s and United’s insurers not become insolvent.

Silverstein has received several billion dollars from insurers to rebuild. He wanted to hold American and United responsible for their alleged negligence in failing to prevent the Twin Towers’ destruction by their hijacked planes.

The accord would “bring to a close this hard-fought thirteen-year litigation on terms agreeable to the parties,” lawyers for Silverstein and the airlines said in a filing.

“We are pleased to have finally reached a resolution to this piece of post-9/11 litigation,” Bud Perrone, a spokesman for Silverstein Properties, said in an email.

Matt Miller, a spokesman for American, said the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier was also pleased to settle, and “will never forget that terrible day and its lasting impact,” including the loss of 23 employees and family members.

Erin Benson, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based United, declined to comment.

The settlement came a little over two years after a federal appeals court said Hellerstein had underestimated Silverstein’s losses on his 99-year lease for the site, signed six weeks before the attacks, clearing the way for the developer to seek more money from the airlines.

Roughly 3,000 people died in the attacks when hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon outside Washington, and a fourth hijacked plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

Silverstein opened a rebuilt One World Trade Center in November 2014. It remains New York City’s tallest building.

“We are currently devoting our attention to the ongoing construction of 3 World Trade Center, which we will open in the spring, and to the development of 2 World Trade Center,” Perrone said.

The cases in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York are In re September 11 Litigation, No. 21-mc-101; World Trade Center Properties LLC et al v. United Airlines Inc et al, No. 08-03719; and World Trade Center Properties LLC et al v. American Airlines Inc et al, No. 08-03722.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Cynthia Osterman