Relatives of 9/11 victims win right to sue airlines

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A New York judge has granted the families of ground victims of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks the right to pursue civil action against American Airlines, United Airlines, Boeing and World Trade Center owners the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, writes Darren Shannon.

The plaintiffs' action cites negligence in the security precautions provided by the airlines and insufficient foresight by Boeing in the manufacture of cockpit doors. The defendants, who had asked the judge to dismiss the case against them, immediately appealed against the decision. The same judge will hear their request for leave to appeal on 26 September.

The appeal will be based on two issues: the attacks were unstoppable acts of terrorism, and sufficient compensation is already available to the victims.

"The issue at hand is terrorism not negligence," says Boeing. The plaintiffs' lawyers say the judge is unlikely to change his opinion. In his ruling, the judge said the airlines, should have "reasonably [foreseen] that crashes causing death and destruction on the ground were a hazard that would arise should hijackers take control of an aeroplane", while Boeing should have provided more secure cockpit doors.

A previous ruling has concluded similar responsibility for the security companies. Of the five groups of defendants to be cited in the civil case, only the airport authorities have yet to have their request for dismissal quashed. The plaintiffs say they are awaiting permission from the US Transportation Security Administration to access the airports' records. Due diligence will indicate the airport's role in the attacks, the lawyers say.