* Silverstein blamed property loss on United negligence
* United had security role in Maine where hijackers started
* Judge says United could not have foreseen events of 9/11
By Jonathan Stempel and Basil Katz
NEW YORK, Nov 21 United Airlines bears no
responsibility for the collapse of a third World Trade Center
building on Sept. 11, 2001, stemming from suspected airport
security lapses that allowed hijackers to crash an American
Airlines plane into the complex, a federal judge ruled on
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein granted a request by
United and its parent, United Continental Holdings Inc,
to dismiss negligence claims by Larry Silverstein, the
leaseholder of the World Trade Center property, over the
destruction of 7 World Trade Center.
Tower 7 collapsed several hours after being pierced by
debris from the crash of AMR Corp's American Airlines
Flight 11 into the nearby 1 World Trade Center, one of the Twin
Two of the Flight 11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta and Abdul Aziz
al Omari, had begun their trip to New York at the Portland
International Jetport, in Maine. There, they boarded a flight by
US Airways carrier Colgan Air to Boston's Logan International
Airport, from which they connected onto the American Airlines
Silverstein said that because United was among the carriers
that ran Portland's only security checkpoint, it was legally
responsible for the screening of all passengers and had missed a
"clear chance" to prevent the hijacking.
Hellerstein, a judge in U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of New York, in Manhattan, concluded that United did
not owe "a duty of care" to Silverstein. He said that United,
which is currently the largest U.S. carrier, could not have
foreseen events that led to the destruction of Tower 7.
"It was not within United's range of apprehension that
terrorists would slip through the security screening checkpoint,
fly to Logan, proceed through another air carrier's security
screening and board that air carrier's flight, hijack the flight
and crash it into 1 World Trade Center, let alone that 1 World
Trade Center would therefore collapse and cause Tower 7 to
collapse," Hellerstein wrote.
In 2009, Hellerstein had dismissed claims against other
airlines for damages caused by United Flight 175, which also
crashed into the Twin Towers. Hellerstein has presided over
almost all U.S. litigation over the Sept. 11 attacks.
SILVERSTEIN TO PURSUE SEPARATE CASE
Bud Perrone, a spokesman for Silverstein Properties, said
the firm was disappointed with Wednesday's ruling, but said it
continues to pursue a similar negligence case over United's
"We are determined and look forward to presenting the facts
before a jury, which will decide whether the defendants'
insurance companies should finally be forced to pay up in order
to finish the rebuilding of the World Trade Center," he said.
A United spokeswoman, Mary Ryan, declined to comment.
The Sept. 11 attacks killed more than 3,000 people in New
York, at the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and in
Silverstein is building three office towers at the 16-acre
World Trade Center site, which is owned by the Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey, though redevelopment has been hobbled
by political battles and cost overruns.
The total project cost was recently estimated at $14.8
billion. Silverstein completed a $700 million, 52-story building
at the 7 World Trade Center site in 2006, and it is now fully
Silverstein has also sought to hold AMR, which now operates
in bankruptcy, liable for the loss of property and business.
His $8.4 billion lawsuit filed in 2008 also named Boeing Co
, the Massachusetts Port Authority, which manages Logan
Airport, and security companies as defendants.
Hellerstein has limited potential recovery to the $2.8
billion that Silverstein paid for his leases.
The Sept. 11 attacks prompted the creation of the U.S.
Transportation Security Administration, which now oversees
security at airport checkpoints.
The case is World Trade Center Properties LLC et al v.
American Airlines Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern
District of New York, No. 08-03722.