Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Appeals Court finds Port Authority liable in 1993 WTC bombing

On Tuesday a New York state appeals court ruled that the Port Authority is liable for damages resulting from the 1993 bomb attack. The court found that the Port Authority knew about, yet chose to ignore “an extreme and potentially catastrophic vulnerability that would have been open and obvious to any terrorist who cared to investigate and exploit it.”

The ruling upheld the jury verdict that assigned responsibility for the bombing rested 68% with the Port Authority and 32% with the terrorists who perpetrated the attack. (Presumably, the jury decided their verdict on percentages versus dollar amounts because the final tallies will be pending until the last ase is settled.) When the jury handed down their verdict in 2005, representatives of the Port Authority called the notion that the agency would be more at fault than the terrorists “egregiously incorrect” and “bizarre.”

The appeals court, shall we say, disagreed.
In its decision, the court noted that the Port Authority, a bistate New York and New Jersey agency that owned the trade center, did not argue that the bombing was unforeseeable, only that it was unlikely, since its own consultants and an internal study group had predicted “with exact prescience” how an attack could be carried out.

Andrew Carboy, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, estimated on Tuesday that the Port Authority faced more than $100 million in damages for the 50 personal injury and dozen business-interruption cases remaining. Apart from its fiscal effect, the unanimous, 35-page decision signified the first time that a body of judges, versed in the nuances of the law and legal precedent as well as the evidence, had ruled on a seminal moment in New York history.

The court found that the jury considered not just the moral wrong of the act of terrorism, but also the responsibility born by the Port Authority for creating the conditions that allowed the bombing to occur. “The evidence, fairly considered, clearly supported the view that the defendant’s negligence had been extraordinarily conducive of the terrorists’ conduct,” the judges said in their 35 page ruling.

The attack on February 26, 1993 killed six people and injured approximately 1000, but unlike the massive attack of September 11, 2001 the federal government didn't set up a victims compensation fund. Because it was handled this way, victims are still , 15 years later, hanging in limbo awaiting a trial on damages. If Tuesdays ruling stands, the damages trial can get underway and the steps to resolution and closure can commence.

No comments: