Supreme Court Turns Down Sept. 11 Environmental Appeal

December 15, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1 declined to revive a New York real estate developer’s lawsuit against the leaseholder of the destroyed World Trade Center and two airlines seeking environmental cleanup costs related to the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacked airliner attacks.

The court’s refusal to hear the appeal filed by Cedar & Washington Associates Ltd. means an appeals court ruling dismissing the lawsuit remains intact.

In 2008, the developer sued American Airlines, United Airlines and parent companies American Airlines Group Inc. and United Continental Holdings, in addition to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and Larry Silverstein, leaseholder of the World Trade Center properties.

The developer sued the airlines because their planes, hijacked by al Qaeda militants, were used to topple the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

Cedar & Washington Associates sought to recoup costs associated with cleaning up asbestos, fiberglass and other particles during the renovation of a 12-story apartment building near the site in lower Manhattan where the twin towers were destroyed.

In a May ruling, the 2nd U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the attacks were an act of war, exempting defendants of liability under a law enacted in 1980 to deal with environmental and health risks caused by industrial pollution.

The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) includes exceptions to liability, including acts of war.