Trial Over Liability for 1993 WTC Bombings Begins In N.Y. Court

By | September 25, 2005

Families of the six who were killed and the more than 1,000 injured in the first World Trade Center bombing will see their lawsuits against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey go to trial on Monday, Sept. 26, after 12 years of legal delays.

Six main jurors and four alternates were chosen last Friday for the trial before State Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Figueroa. The trial is expected to last five weeks.

Lawyers for more than 400 individuals and businesses who filed some 175 lawsuits, say the deadly blast on Feb. 26, 1993, from 1,200 pounds of explosives in a rented van in a public garage under one of the 110-story twin towers, was a foreseeable act.

Figueroa told the lawyers in the case to avoid talking to the news media. But plaintiffs’ lawyers have said a 1984 report commissioned by the Port Authority, the bistate agency that owned the 16-acre trade center site, found that the garage was an easy terrorist target.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers, led by David J. Dean, must try to prove that the Port Authority negligently failed to establish proper security measures after it was warned that a terrorist attack was possible.

Four people were convicted in March 1994 on charges related to placing and detonating the explosives and causing the deaths, injuries and damage.

Lawyers for the Port Authority have argued that the bombing was not foreseeable or preventable and therefore the agency should not be held responsible for the deaths and injuries.

Justice Stanley Sklar, the previous judge in the litigation, rejected motions by the Port Authority’s lawyers to throw the case out. He said the case could proceed, and an appeals court affirmed his ruling.

Sklar agreed with plaintiffs’ lawyers who said that as early as 1984 the Port Authority’s own Terrorist Planning and Intelligence Section had made an “eerily accurate” prediction of the kind of attack that might occur at the World Trade Center.

The appeals judges, in a brief and terse ruling, wrote, “unanimously affirmed for the reasons stated by Sklar, J(ustice).”

Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said at that time that the agency was “disappointed with this decision” and was considering further appellate review.

The current trial is meant to determine only whether the Port Authority was negligent and therefore liable for damages. If the Port Authority is found liable, several separate trials will be held to determine money damages.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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