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United Airlines removed from World Trade Center case

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 8:12 p.m.

United Airlines cannot be held responsible for the terrorist hijacking on Sept. 11, 2001, that destroyed a building in the World Trade Center complex, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

The owner of 7 World Trade Center, a building that stood next to the Twin Towers, sued United and American Airlines by arguing that the building was destroyed because of the airlines' negligence.

But U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled that United bears “no responsibility for Tower 7's destruction” because it wasn't responsible for the hijacking of American Flight 11 or its hitting the Trade Center.

United had no comment on the ruling.

The hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz, passed through security in Portland, Maine, which was the responsibility of Delta Air Lines, before they transferred to the American flight in Boston, according to Hellerstein. American was responsible for the Boston checkpoint, Hellerstein wrote.

Flight 11 crashed into 1 World Trade Center, which spewed flaming debris that pierced Tower 7, where fires burned until the building collapsed, Hellerstein wrote.

“It was not within United's range of apprehension that terrorists would slip through the (Portland) security screening checkpoint, fly to Logan, proceed through another air carrier's security screening and board that carrier's flight, hijack the flight and crash it into 1 World Trade Center, let alone that 1 World Trade Center would therefore collapse and cause Tower 7 to collapse,” Hellerstein wrote in his 11-page ruling.

Several cases linger from the fateful day when four planes were hijacked and flown into each of the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and into a field in Shanksville.

Larry Silverstein, the World Trade Center leaseholder, was seeking $8.4 billion for the loss of business. But Hellerstein has limited the amount to the $2.8 billion that Silverstein paid for the leases.

Bud Perrone, a spokesman for Silverstein Properties, expressed disappointment with the ruling but said he looked forward to their prospects in a different lawsuit against United that alleges security lapses that led the terrorists to hijack United Flight 175.

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