Judge says Trade Center owners cannot demand billions more

The owners of the World Trade Center cannot demand billions of dollars more in insurance money for the destruction caused by the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal judge decided Thursday.

NEW YORK — The owners of the World Trade Center cannot demand billions of dollars more in insurance money for the destruction caused by the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal judge decided Thursday.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled after hearing testimony by economic experts for the trade centre owners and for the airlines linked to the planes that were hijacked in the attacks. The non-jury trial was held to decide whether the owners of the owners could collect more than the nearly $5 billion they’ve already received toward reconstruction.

In ruling against developer Larry Silverstein and World Trade Center Properties, Hellerstein cited state laws that bar “windfalls and double recovery on the same loss.”

The judge said that though he was ruling against the trade centre owners, they deserved credit for spearheading the recovery effort at the site.

“You were dealt a very severe blow,” the judge said of the attack that turned the trade centre into an inferno. Since then, the developer’s workers have laboured to “create beauty out the ashes of the destruction,” he added.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers said they would appeal the decision.

During the four-day proceeding, Silverstein’s attorneys had insisted that the aviation companies owed at least $3.5 billion for letting hijackers board planes that destroyed three skyscrapers on Sept. 11, 2001: the prominent twin towers, and 7 World Trade Center, a 47-story building that caught fire after debris from one of the jet crashes pierced its facade. It collapsed hours later.

Attorney Roger Podesta, speaking for companies including United Airlines Inc., US Airways Inc., American Airlines Inc. and its parent company, AMR Corp., had argued that making aviation companies pay would amount to double compensation.

He said an $8.5 billion total recovery would be more than 2 1/2 times the fair value of the buildings that fell.

But attorney Richard Williamson, representing World Trade Center Properties, said damages from the attacks had totalled at least $7.2 billion.

The trade centre owners say it has cost more than $7 billion to replace the twin towers and more than $1 billion to replace the third trade centre building that fell.

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