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Of all the lawsuits likely delayed by the World Trade Center destruction, it is hard to find one more sadly ironic than In re World Trade Center Litigation. While no one appears to have yet sued over the Sept. 11 attacks, hundreds of claims are pending before Manhattan state court Judge Stanley Sklar resulting from the 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center. In February of that year, terrorists triggered the explosion of a rented van in a basement-level parking garage, killing six people and injuring hundreds more. Plaintiffs’ lawyers claim that the Port Authority knew the towers were an attractive terrorist target and that a truck bomb was the most likely weapon. “The position we always put forth was that the World Trade Center was the target for terrorists,” said Blair Fensterstock, of New York’s Fensterstock & Partners, who chairs the plaintiffs’ steering committee in the 1993 bombing cases. The Port Authority “downplayed that.” The Port Authority, which owned and operated the World Trade Center at the time of the 1993 attack (it was leased to a developer not long before Sept. 11), faces personal injury suits, property-damage and business-interruption claims and subrogation suits from insurers, which seek to recover money paid to policy-holders after the bombing. The lawsuits were consolidated before Sklar in 1994. Hard-fought litigation over Port Authority security documents has caused most of the delay since then. Plaintiffs’ lawyers demanded documents created by the Port Authority’s Office of Special Planning, created in the 1980s to advise on terrorism prevention at all Port Authority facilities, including bridges, tunnels and airports in the New York City area, in addition to the 16-acre World Trade Center office complex. QUESTION OF PRIVILEGE The Port Authority, which has consistently denied liability in the 1993 bombing, claimed the documents were privileged, citing a need to keep World Trade Center security details secret. Although that concern was made sadly moot by the destruction of the office complex, plaintiffs’ lawyers doubt this will renew the discovery battles. After years of litigating discovery at all levels of New York’s court system, the plaintiffs’ lawyers think they have what they need to go to trial. Victor Kovner, former corporation counsel for New York City and a partner in the New York office of Seattle-based Davis Wright Tremaine, said discovery in the case is “97 percent complete” and believes the parties could be ready for a trial on Port Authority liability early next year. If the plaintiffs win on liability, further proceedings will determine damages. Among Kovner’s cases before Judge Sklar is a business-interruption claim on behalf of Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial firm whose New York office was all but wiped out in the recent disaster. Will Sept. 11 have any effect on the 1993 bombing lawsuits? “It may hasten settlement,” Kovner predicted. “But as a matter of law, it shouldn’t have any direct impact.” Kovner is a member of the plaintiffs’ steering committee. But Kovner has little doubt that the Sept. 11 attack will add further delay. The offices of the Port Authority legal department, which had been located on the 66th floor in the north tower, were destroyed. (The Port Authority is missing 74 employees from Sept. 11, including its executive director. Among the missing are two lawyers.) “It is absolutely untrue that the World Trade Center was an unsafe building in 1993 and could have been better protected,” said Port Authority general counsel Jeffrey Green. “The Port Authority had done a number of reviews and nearly 90 percent of the recommendations had been implemented. Plaintiffs’ allegations are a lot of nonsense.”

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