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Massport, airlines might pay nearly $3B in 9/11 case

The Massachusetts Port Authority and other litigants might pay billions to the World Trade Center Properties, which is suing over poor security at Logan International Airport following the 9/11 attacks.

WTCP argues that Massport, the owner and operator of Logan Airport and other defendants in the four-year case such as United Airlines  and American Airlines could have prevented the attack of 9/11, according to court documents.

Attorneys representing WTCP filed documents on Tuesday that appealed to Judge Alvin Hellerstein and wrote about the shortcomings of the defendants, including Massport.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al Omari, two of the terrorists on 9/11, flew into Terminal B at Logan Airport from Portland, Maine, wrote Richard Williamson, an attorney for WTCP.

Once in Boston, both men had to exit one secure area of the terminal and re-enter another, passing through an American Airlines’ security checkpoint, he wrote. Once on flight 11 out of Boston, Omari and Atta hijacked the plane and crashed it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.

In his document, Williamson said the security was notoriously poor, which allowed the terrorists to slip through the cracks.

“The lax security at Logan Airport was well-publicized from at least 1999,” he wrote. “Checkpoint security personnel were so poorly selected, paid, motivated and trained that there was an astounding 207-percent turnover rate.”

The WTCP alleges that if it were not “for the Aviation Defendants’ negligence, the terrorists could not have boarded and hijacked the aircraft and flown them into the twin towers,” according to earlier court documents.

The WTCP paid $2.805 billion for a 99-year lease of the World Trade Center in July of 2001, only to have their investment destroyed two months later in the attacks, according to court documents.

Massport and other defendants argue that the insurance payout to WTCP, which totals more than $4 billion, should be credited against what they owe the WTCP, according to court documents.

But U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein denied this motion on Aug. 31.

“The overlap between WTCP’s insurance recovery and its potential tort recovery presents issues of fact requiring trial,” he wrote in his opinion.

In the same opinion, Hellerstein wrote that the limit of tort recovery payout to the WTCP could not exceed $2.8 billion.

Hellerstein wrote that the insurance payout to WTCP could not qualify as similar to aviation payout in his opinion.

“In order to make such a finding, I would have to find, to a ‘reasonable certainty,’ that the categories of insurance payments received by WTCP could recover in its lawsuit against the Aviation Defendants,” he wrote. “On this record, before trial, I am not able to make such findings.”

The litigation will continue to a federal trial. Despite Hellerstein’s payout limit, the defendants could face a jury that could dictate a hefty payout from Massport with other defendants possibly exceeding $2.8 billion, depending on what the jury decides.

Massport would not comment on this case as it is still pending in court.

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