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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

WTC Firm Sought Unfair Damages, Judge Ruled

MANHATTAN (CN) - A brokerage firm that occupied the top five floors of Tower One of the World Trade Center before Sept. 11 "substantially inflated" damages it demanded from American Airlines, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday. Cantor Fitzgerald & Co.'s attempt to recoup losses caused by the deaths of its employees in the terrorist attack is contrary to New York law, according to the ruling.

The firm had originally sought over $1 billion in damages against American and its parent company, AMR, for not preventing terrorists from hijacking flight 11 from Boston and crashing it into the first tower.

Cantor Fitzgerald lost 658 of its approximately 1,000 employees during the terrorist attacks.

The firm's original damages estimate filed in 2009 sought approximately $100 million, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein noted. Prior to mediation, however, the company "amended its damage estimate to increase it ten-fold, to nearly $1 billion," the ruling states.

An estimate for revenues Cantor Fitzgerald could have achieved if its employees had not been killed is included in the billion-dollar claim against the airline.

American argued that Cantor Fitzgerald's claims were excessive and in contravention of New York law.

Hellerstein wrote that he was sympathetic to the firm's situation, but that the business interruption claims essentially argued wrongful death. Damage claims of World Trade Center companies must be limited to recovery of property damage and "the market value of their leasehold interests," the judge ordered.

"Cantor Fitzgerald is entitled to claim damages naturally and probably resulting from the damage it suffered ... but ... cannot bootstrap this entitlement into a wholesale claim of business interruption damages," Hellerstein wrote.

Cantor Fitzgerald's damages claim is the last remaining suit of 95 complaints filed in connection to the four planes hijacked on Sept. 11. The other 94 claims have all settled.

Hellerstein plans to set a trial date for Cantor Fitzgerald's suit in March.

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