Judge Blocks Sept. 11 Claims Against Airlines

NEW YORK (AP) -

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

Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled after listening to witnesses for the trade center owners and for the airlines linked to the planes that were hijacked in the attacks. The trial was arranged to decide whether the owners of the trade center complex can collect more than the nearly $5 billion they’ve already received toward reconstruction.

Lawyers for the airlines argued that the claims made against them duplicate claims that have already been paid by insurance companies.

But Developer Larry Silverstein and World Trade Center Properties 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.

Hellerstein had said before the trial began Monday that he would announce his ruling at its conclusion. There was no jury.

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 the attorney for World Trade Center Properties said damages from the attacks had totaled at least $7.2 billion.

The developers’ lawyers said they would appeal.