Judge Seeks Narrowing of Sept. 11 Wrongful Death Suit

By | February 28, 2011

A judge is urging lawyers in the June trial of the only wrongful death case remaining from the Sept. 11 attacks to see if they can trim the number of defendants, but one lawyer cited lingering questions over how weapons made it onto the plane as a reason why a Boston airport might need to remain in the case.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein during a pretrial hearing last Friday invited an airport security company and the Massachusetts Port Authority to submit written arguments if they want to be eliminated as defendants in a case brought by the family of Mark Bavis, of West Newton, Mass., against United Airlines and airport security companies. A lawyer for the Port Authority promised to do so.

“I’ve been pushing for the elimination of defendants,” Hellerstein said, adding that his efforts had been largely unsuccessful.

Bavis was a scout for the Los Angeles Kings hockey team when he died aboard United Flight 175 at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The lawsuit brought by the Bavis family is the only one of 95 lawsuits brought on behalf of 96 victims in the attacks that has not been settled. All but 3 percent of the families of relatives killed in four planes taken over by terrorists on Sept. 11 chose to receive payments from a special fund Congress established. It distributed more than $7 billion to over 5,000 survivors.

Donald Migliori, a lawyer for the Bavis family, told Hellerstein it was necessary to keep the Massachusetts Port Authority, the operator of Boston’s Logan International Airport, in the case because there may be disagreements over how the hijackers managed to get weapons on the plane.

“It may have come through catering. It may have come in from another source,” Migliori said, citing the responsibility of the airport to keep its facilities secure.

The lawyer said at an earlier hearing that items that improperly made it onto hijacked planes that day included Mace, pepper spray, box cutters and a Leatherman utility tool.

The judge said the origination of the Mace was important because it was one of the means by which terrorists took control of the plane.

“What you’re telling me is nobody has any real proof” as to how the items made it on board, the judge said.

The judge said he was looking forward to the trial, which was expected to last one month.

“Professionally, I think it’s going to be extraordinary,” he said. He added that he expected it would become a lesson for future law school students.

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