Last Wrongful Death Lawsuit Stemming From 9/11 Attacks Settled

Earlier this week your attorneys in Charleston read that, in New York, the last of the wrongful death lawsuits arising from the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center was settled. The final plaintiff to settle their suit, a 31-year-old hockey scout, was aboard United Flight 175, which was the second plane to hit the World Trade Center. Named defendants in the suit were United Airlines and Huntleigh USA, the security company that operated the security checkpoint at Logan International Airport in Boston. The lawsuit alleged gross negligence on the part of said defendants for allowing five terrorists to board United Flight 175.

The lawsuit was initially filed in 2002, but the surviving family members of the 31-year-old man were reluctant to settle the suit because they wanted to hold United and Huntleigh publicly accountable at trial for their negligent inaction that allowed the terrorists aboard Flight 175. Although the case was settled, plaintiffs were still able to achieve their want of holding defendants publicly accountable through plaintiff’s counsel filing a detailed collection of their evidence in response to defendant’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiff’s filing their 127 exhibits into Federal District Court record allowed plaintiffs to reveal a cache of information not previously made public.

In August, defendant’s counsel filed a motion to dismiss claiming that “[n]either United nor Huntleigh can be held liable under either federal or state law for not stopping an attack that the entire federal government was unable to predict, plan against, or prevent.” Defendants’ motion to dismiss also contended that the security system in place was done under the direction of the federal government, and “neither intended to stop, nor capable of stopping, what happened that day.” However, the filing of evidence, which included excerpts of confidential depositions of checkpoint screeners, by plaintiffs tells a story of inexperienced personnel who lacked the necessary training to properly carry out their job.

According to the filing, many of the security screeners at Logan International were unable to speak or comprehend English, one of which required an interpreter while being deposed by plaintiffs’ attorneys. Other staff issues included personnel never hearing of Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda, and not being able to identify Mace, a tear gas in the form of aerosol spray that was used against passengers on Flight 175. Plaintiffs were quick to point out in the filing that these staff issues cannot be attributed to the staff themselves, rather it showed a failure by United and Huntleigh to properly hire and retain qualified security screeners, as well as a shortfall in training and preparation against a terrorist threat to the aviation industry.

As was the case in all of the other wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits, 85 in all, surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the damages claimed by plaintiff was kept confidential. However, in this particular case, it is known the presiding judge, who has overseen all of the wrongful death actions as well as others stemming from the 9/11 attacks, said he would probably allow the plaintiff to seek damages for pain and suffering subjected to by the plaintiff in the final 21 minutes of the flight. The judge had named these damages, “terror damages.” But, as mentioned, the case was settled before the plaintiff could seek terror damages through litigation.

Your Charleston lawyer would like you to know that damages for pain and suffering are awarded in a civil claim for a plethora of serious injuries, both physical and mental, including but not limited to broken bones or other forms of bodily trauma, as well as depression, embarrassment from scarring, and any other mental anguish or emotional distress that may arise from another’s negligence or intentional act. The difficult part, as far as recovery, of pain and suffering damages is assigning a dollar value to the injury or injuries, as it is a totally subjective, whereas medical bills and lost wages can be calculated.

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