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New York court hears appeal on liability for 1993 World Trade Center attack

The Port Authority or New York and New Jersey [official website], owners and maintainers of the World Trade Center (WTC), argued in an appeal [summary of the case, PDF] on Wednesday before the New York Court of Appeals [official website] that they were not liable for negligence in the 1993 World Trade Center attacks [FBI Backgrounger; BBC Backgrounder]. The Port Authority seeks to overturn the 2008 decision [text] that upheld a 2005 jury verdict [JURIST report] apportioning 68 percent of the fault to the Port Authority and 32 percent to the terrorists who committed the attack. The Appellate Division (First Judicial Department) [official website] disallowed the Port Authority from arguing qualified immunity. In this appeal, the Port Authority's argued:

[I]n denying it immunity, 'the courts below disregarded the clear mandates of this Court shielding discretionary governmental decisions from liability and have allowed, even encouraged, the use of tort law to second-guess these considered policy choices.' Contending it did not breach its proprietary duty, it says, 'Earlier premises liability cases established that private landlords must take only 'minimal measures' to prevent foreseeable criminal intrusions. The Port Authority's counterterrorism measures easily surpassed that standard.' Regarding its share of liability, it says, "Holding the Port Authority more than twice as culpable as the actual terrorists is per se unreasonable and undermines confidence in our system of justice.'
Most claims that were filed against the Port Authority for the attacks were settled out of court and thus unaffected by this appeal. Six suits remain in flux: five for personal injury and one for business interruption. The court is expected to rule in a month.

The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center by Islamic radicals killed six and injured 1,000 through a car bomb placed in the basement parking garage of the WTC. Five men were captured and sentenced to life in prison for the attack. After the bombing, 648 plaintiffs filed 174 negligence actions against the Port Authority for "alleged breach of its proprietary duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition." Negligence was assessed against the Port Authority after documents revealed that the WTC garage had been ignoring safety fears since 1984. The Port Authority police superintendent, at the time, stated the parking areas "[we]re accessible to the public and are highly susceptible to car bombings."

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