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NY appeals court upholds Port Authority negligence verdict in 1993 WTC bombing

[JURIST] A New York appeals court has upheld [opinion text] a jury's finding that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was negligent [JURIST report] in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center [BBC backgrounder] by Islamic radicals that killed six and injured 1,000. The jury found in 2003 that the Port Authority [official website], which owned the World Trade Center, did not properly maintain the building's garage, where terrorists detonated an explosives-laden van.

The appellate court on Monday affirmed the trial judge's decision not to grant the Port Authority's request to set aside the jury verdict [JURIST report], concluding:

The verdict we now uphold is neither properly nor intelligently understood as absolving the terrorists. The issue before the jury in this civil action was not whether the terrorists had committed the bombing - obviously they had - or whether they should be severely penalized - most of them were - but whether their heinous conduct was foreseeable and avoidable by defendant in the discharge of its proprietary responsibilities. Terrorism has for decades posed a dire threat to ordered life in free and open societies, but certainly its specter cannot justify the view that performance of the duties we have traditionally relied upon as essential to the preservation of our security may be generally excused as futile. It is, of course, entirely possible that terrorists will employ means that not even the conscientious performance of duty would deter and, where that is established, the absence of a causal nexus between the harm and any default by a defendant in the performance of its duty will preclude the imposition of civil liability. But, as this jury recognized, this was not such a case. Here, the evidence overwhelmingly supported the view that the conscientious performance of defendant's duty reasonably to secure its premises would have prevented the harm. This civil jury had no power to decide whether the terrorists should in any meaningful sense be "absolved" of their murderous acts. What it could and did decide was rather that the acts of these terrorists, even while obviously odious in the extreme, were not a cause for the easy absolution of this defendant from its civil obligations.
The New York Law Journal has more.

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