A World Trade Center developer asked a judge Wednesday to disqualify American Airlines from using an "act of war" defense to dodge property liability resulting from the Sept. 11 attacks.
Lawyers for the developer, Larry Silverstein, filed papers in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to urge rejection of American Airlines' claim that the 2001 terrorist attack was an act of war that should shield the airline from liability. They called the claims proof of "breathtaking cynicism."
The lawyers said the airline and its insurance carriers promised Congress, regulators and the American people after the attacks that the defense would not be used. In return, the lawyers said, the aviation industry got a massive federal bailout that protected their businesses after the attacks.
"Defendants now renege on those promises and press an act of war defense," the lawyers wrote.
American Airlines spokesman Sean Collins said Silverstein's claims have "no factual or legal support."
"American Airlines has defended itself with all defenses available at law against the baseless attempt by the Silverstein entities to hold American responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11," he said.
Silverstein has been aggressive in the courts to try to collect as much money as possible to rebuild the trade center after the Sept. 11 attacks demolished two 110-story towers. He included the airline in his claims for damages after American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles struck the north tower of the trade center, killing 86 passengers and crew members, along with the hijackers.
He originally filed separate claims for $7 billion, or two full payouts under the $3.5 billion worth of insurance coverage he took out on the trade center complex, arguing that the towers were destroyed by separate attacks by planes hijacked by terrorists.
In two civil trials, it was determined he was eligible for more than $4 billion in insurance payouts.
A judge has limited him to $2.8 billion in potential payouts from remaining litigation, including his action against Texas-based American Airlines.