Should United Airlines be held responsible for the actions of passengers on another airline’s flight?

That’s the question U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein is considering in a case that accuses United Continental Holdings Inc. and American Airlines of a lapse in security that allowed hijackers onto the plane that ultimately crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The plaintiff in this case, World Trade Center Properties (WTCP), owned by Larry Silverstein, argues that even though the plane that crashed into the towers was an American Airlines flight, United was one of the airlines responsible for security screening at Maine’s Portland International Jetport. The terrorists first flew from Portland to Boston, where they connected onto the flight they would then hijack.

“The first line of defense was Portland,” Richard Williamson, attorney for WTCP, told the court. “They were just asleep at the switch.”

However, in 2009 Hellerstein dismissed claims against other airlines in a lawsuit dealing with a United flight that also crashed into the towers. “Would I be acting inconsistently if I did not dismiss United?” Hellerstein asked.

WTCP is seeking $8.4 billion in damages for loss of property and business, but Hellerstein previously capped the World Trade Center’s value at the $2.8 billion the company paid for the lease on the buildings.

Hellerstein is reserving judgment while he considers the argument.

Read more at Thomson Reuters.


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