9/11 Victims’ Families Finally Get Day in Court

By Joseph Rhee

Sep 11, 2007 10:46am

In an odd case of legal timing, pre-trial hearings begin today for lawsuits linked to the 9/11 attacks. Families of dozens of the victims of the terrorism attacks are suing United and American Airlines, Boeing and security companies and airports, claiming the parties were negligent in allowing the hijackers to carry out their deadly plot. The lawsuits allege the defendants should have anticipated the terrorist attacks and "failed to take reasonable action to protect passengers from harm." The suits also charge the defendants with lax security procedures that "failed to detect dangerous and deadly weapons." The families involved in the lawsuits have chosen not to receive a payout from the $7 billion 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which would have prevented them from pursuing litigation. The overwhelming majority of victims’ families have decided to participate in the fund and have received an average payout of $2 million. The first 9/11 trial is scheduled for Sept. 24 in the U.S. District Court in New York. In a twist, Judge Alvin Hellerstein has ruled the damages portion of the trial will take place first, with liability to possibly be determined later. Hellerstein said the move might help the parties reach a settlement.  Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. The plaintiffs’ attorney Ron Motley, however, told the Blotter on ABCNews.com that the decision is "cheating the families out of their day in court" because after six long years, many were hoping that a full trial would shed light on the air industry’s security practices. Lawyers for the defendants have said they should not be blamed for the actions of the terrorists. United Airlines released a statement saying, "We fully understand and empathize with the victims’ families. 9/11 was a horrifying and tragic day for our country, directly impacting thousands of Americans. The court has established a process to move these cases to a fair and timely resolution, without casting blame and without forcing anyone to first endure a lengthy, painful trial with uncertain outcome, and we are committed to following the process." Click Here to Register to Receive Blotter Alerts.

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