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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Firm Can’t Add Airport Screener to 9/11 Lawsuit

(CN) - A federal judge in Manhattan rejected a brokerage firm's bid to add an airport screening company to its list of defendants in a lawsuit stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. sought to add Globe Aviation Services and several related companies to a lawsuit filed in 2004.

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein refused to allow the belated action against Globe, ruling that "a five-year oversight" was not a sufficient reason for the delay.

The 2001 terrorist attacks killed 658 Cantor employees - about two-thirds of its workforce. It was the highest casualty rate of any company that occupied the World Trade Center.

The bond-trading firm's headquarters was located on the 101st to the 105th floors of Tower One, just a few floors above the impact zone.

Every Cantor employee in its New York office died.

The attacks led to a deluge of lawsuits, but Cantor "sued a narrower and more focused group of companies," according to Hellerstein.

It filed a $223.5 million suit against the airlines and aviation companies, but unlike most of the plaintiffs, Cantor didn't name the airport screeners, including Globe, as defendants.

Cantor said American Airlines and United Airlines performed negligent screening at the Portland, Logan and Newark airports, where the terrorists boarded planes prior to the hijackings.

Various estates of Cantor employees filed their own wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits.

Judge Hellerstein noted that pre-trial proceedings "have been extensive." The parties have taken more than 180 depositions, and 400,000 pages of documents have been produced, with 92 of the 95 cases now settled.

The remaining three are headed for trial, along with 18 property damage claims that allege billions of dollars worth of damage.

"The lawsuits have proceeded in a consolidated fashion through pre-trial discovery and are now in mediation," the judge wrote. "It is at this point, after all this has been accomplished, that Cantor filed its motion to add the Globe defendants to its lawsuit."

He didn't buy Cantor's explanation that not adding Globe was an "oversight."

Allowing Cantor to amend its complaint would "prejudice Globe, and every other party in these lawsuits," he said.

"Globe has no reason to review Cantor's document production or to consider, or participate in any meetings, concerning Cantor's claims, now stated at $1.2 billion, more than five times its original $223 million," Hellerstein wrote.

He added that the parties should be focused on settling the remaining claims and not re-doing discovery.

In 2004 Cantor filed a $7 billion lawsuit against the government of Saudi Arabia for purportedly supporting al Qaida prior to 9/11. Dozens of other defendants were also named in the action, including many Saudi banks and Islamic charities.

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