911 Wrongful Death Cases For AA Flight 11, and United 175 Will Finally Be Going To Trial In New York City

According to the Associated Press out of New York, the first wrongful death lawsuit resulting from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks will go to trial April 12, a judge said Tuesday, July 28, 2009. U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein set the trial date over the complaints of aviation security industry lawyers who said they needed more time to prepare for the litigation. “There’s a great deal of shock on the defense side,” said Desmond Thomas Barry, a lawyer representing the aviation defendants in the pending litigation. It has not been decided which of three remaining wrongful death claims will go before the jury at the trial in New York. Currently, more than 90 families have already settled their claims, and therefore do not need trials.

Judge Hellerstein said he wants the trial completed in less than a month and will set limits on the time given to each side so presentations to the jury are equal. This shows his interest for an expedient and efficient trial. Judge Hellerstein is in the Federal District Court in Manhatten, New York. Once the trial is completed, Judge Hellerstein said, he will begin trials for damages claims by people who suffered respiratory illnesses at the World Trade Center site. He said he wanted the first trial to result from a lawsuit on behalf of victims who were on the planes involved in 911. “When we think of 9-11, we think more of the people in the airplane than anyone else,” the judge said.

Judge Hellerstein said the three wrongful death lawsuits that remain will be tried in two different trials as follows:

1. One trial will consider whether the aviation defendants face liability in the deaths of Sara Low, 28, a Boston-based flight attendant who died when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the World Trade Center, and Barbara Keating, 72, of Palm Springs, Florida, also aboard American Airlines Flight 11.

2. The other trial will decide whether defendants are liable in the death of Mark Bavis, 31, of West Newton, Massachusetts, a scout for the Los Angeles Kings hockey team who was aboard United Flight 175, which also struck the World Trade Center on 911.

Judge Hellerstein told lawyers for the plaintiffs to tell him in the next week which trial will be first. Ninety-seven (97) percent of the relatives of those killed in planes that hit the World Trade Center or the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, chose to receive payments from a special fund that the U.S. Congress established. It distributed more than $7 billion to more than 5,000 survivors of potential wrongful death actions. However, 95 lawsuits on behalf of 96 victims were filed by those families who chose to reject the fund (the great majority on behalf of families whose loved ones were killed on the 911 planes).

One former Boston aviation official said it’s time to speak up: “Maybe now we’ll get to fill in some of the gaps left in the 9/11 Commission Report,” said Brian Sullivan, a retired Federal Aviation Administration offical who long worried about such a doomsday security breach.
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