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NY judge blocks Sept. 11 claims against airlines

Thursday, 18 Jul 2013 | 5:05 PM ET
Eric Feferberg | AFP | Getty Images

The owners of the World Trade Center cannot demand billions of dollars more in insurance money for the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal judge decided Thursday.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled after listening to witnesses for the trade center owners and for the airlines linked to the planes that were hijacked in the attacks. The trial was arranged to decide whether the owners of the trade center complex can collect more than the nearly $5 billion they've already received toward reconstruction.

Lawyers for the airlines contended that the claims made against them duplicate claims that have already been paid by insurance companies.

(Read more: American Air parent AMR posts first Q2 profit in years)

But developer Larry Silverstein and World Trade Center Properties insisted through their lawyers that the aviation companies owed at least $3.5 billion for letting hijackers board planes that destroyed three skyscrapers on Sept. 11, 2001: the prominent twin towers, and 7 World Trade Center, a 47-story building that caught fire after debris from one of the jet crashes pierced its facade. It collapsed hours later.

Hellerstein had said before the trial began Monday that he would announce his ruling at its conclusion. There was no jury.

Attorney Roger Podesta, speaking for companies including United Airlines, US Airways, American Airlines and its parent company, AMR, had argued that making aviation companies pay would amount to double compensation.

He said an $8.5 billion total recovery would be more than 2½ times the fair value of the buildings that fell.

But attorney Richard Williamson, representing World Trade Center Properties, said damages from the attacks had totaled at least $7.2 billion.

The trade center owners say it has cost more than $7 billion to replace the twin towers and more than $1 billion to replace the third trade center building that fell.

In court papers, both sides had accused the other of unfairly characterizing their claims.

The developers' lawyers said they would appeal.

—By The Associated Press.