American Air Sued in WTC Attack
Mon Apr 8, 2:58 PM ET
By Gail Appleson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp was sued for more than $50 million on Monday by the husband of a highly paid portfolio manager who was killed on Sept. 11 in her World Trade Center office.
The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, was brought on behalf of Bonnie Shihadeh Smithwick who had worked at the Fred Alger Management Company on the 93rd floor of the north tower known as One World Trade Center. The tower was hit by American Flight 11 after hijackers took control of the plane.
The suit alleged that Smithwick survived the initial impact of the attack and telephoned her husband, Thomas Smithwick, using a cellular phone. However, she was unable to escape the raging fire and died when the tower collapsed.
The Smithwick suit sees $50 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages for the terror, pain and suffering, wrongful death and economic loss.
John Kelly, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said Smithwick was highly paid and her estate would not have been eligible to receive any money from the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund because she had substantial life insurance policies.
“Ms. Smithwick’s case presents a clear example of the fundamental flaw in the Victims Compensation Fund…any compensation due under the plan is reduced by monies received from collateral sources such as life insurance policies,” Kelly said. “In Ms. Smithwick’s case, that amount would be reduced to zero.”
The compensation program is part of an airline assistance package approved by Congress in September. By taking part in the program, families of victims give up their right to sue and seek damages from any defendants, such as the airlines or the World Trade Center.
About 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11 attacks by three hijacked airliners on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (news – web sites) and the crash of a fourth hijacked plane in Pennsylvania.
Although other suits have been filed stemming from the hijacked airplane attacks, Kelly said he believes this is the first brought against American Airlines on behalf of a victim killed inside of the World Trade Center.
A spokesman for American said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit accuses American and Globe Aviation Services, the company it contracted with to operate the security system at Boston’s Logan Airport, of negligence and reckless misconduct. The suit alleges that several hijackers who boarded American Flight 11 at Logan succeeded in transporting weapons through the screening and security systems.
It alleges the defendants’ inadequate security measures and deficient passenger screening system were insufficient to combat the risk of terrorist activity on domestic flights.