Airlines Settle WTC Developer’s 9/11 Claims

World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein has won a long-fought legal battle in a settlement with airlines and airport security companies.

On March, 18 2008 Larry Silverstein, the developer of New York City’s World Trade Center who had already won $4.6 billion in insurance payments to rebuild at the WTC site, sought to recover $12.3 billion in damages from the airlines and airport security companies for the September 11, 2001 attacks. 

Silverstein’s claim, which was filed originally in 2004 and was consolidated in 2008 with similar lawsuits brought by families of some victims of the attack and other property owners, was the largest claimant in the $23 billion lawsuit.

While defense attorneys declared Mr. Silverstein’s claim for such a large part of the suit could threaten the claims for other business and property owners, Donald Migliori, an attorney for the victims’ families was confident that the victims’ claims would take precedence over property damage claims.

There was concern from the airlines attorney Desmond Barry that if Silverstein prevailed with his claim, he could push the total claims beyond the available amount of insurance. 

There ain’t that much insurance,”
— Desmond Barry, attorney for the airlines

The liability was capped at the available amount of insurance by the federal government in an effort to escape bankrupting the airlines.

Richard Williamson, attorney for Mr. Silverstein claimed at the court conference that Silverstein was trying to recoup damages for continued losses at the WTC site which includes a 99-year lease worth $3.2 billion and rental income from approximately 400 tenants as well as the cost of marketing and leasing the new buildings.

The attorney for the airlines, Mr. Barry challenged that Silverstein had been reimbursed with the $4.6 billion insurance settlement that resulted in almost six years of litigation. Barry argued that Mr. Silverstein was owed only what the market value established by the lease in the amount of $3.2 billion for the property.

U. S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who oversees a lot of the civil litigation surrounding the attacks, was skeptical of Silverstein’s claim and questioned why he had not just walked away and wanted clarification from Mr. Williamson as to the nature of the recovery claim. 

For damages suffered by the events of 9/11, not value. Damages.
— responded Williamson

The lease required Silverstein to rebuild and continue to pay rent. After back and forth discussion between Hellerstein, Williamson and Barry, the judge ordered Silverstein provide more documentation or risk losing the claim.

Mr. McQuillan, spokesman for Silverstein, said the developer felt an obligation to rebuild and not just walk away and that the insurance companies would be reimbursed if he wins the lawsuit.

The attorney for the victims’ survivors, Mr. Migliori believed the death and injury cases would get priority in payment of damages over the property damage claims. There was no trial date set in the case, but a fact-finding deadline was set for the end of 2008.

It would be nine more years before a settlement could be reached. 

On November 21, 2017 settlement papers that were filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan stated Larry Silverstein, Silverstein Properties and other entities will be paid $95.2 million by insurers.

While Silverstein was not awarded the amount he had originally filed for in 2008, the involved parties were satisfied with the outcome of the 13-year legal battle. 

Though Mr. Silverstein had received billions from insurers to rebuild the towers, he wanted American and United to be held accountable for the perceived negligence in protecting the Twin Towers from the seized planes used in the attacks.

In the years since, Silverstein has opened a rebuilt One World Trade Center-New York City’s tallest building and construction continues on 3 World Trade Center with development of 2 World Trade Center in the works.

The accord still needs approval by U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein.