13 February 2004

Was 9/11 attack one or two?

baltimoresun.com - Was 9/11 attack one or two?:

Numbers: A trial is to decide if insurers should treat the twin-tower attacks as one or two.

Associated Press
Originally published February 7, 2004

NEW YORK - More than two years after terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, a federal jury will begin deciding a $3.5 billion question: Is the leaseholder entitled to collect insurance for one attack or for two?

Opening statements start Monday in the three-stage trial, which pits developer Larry Silverstein against 13 insurers.

The outcome will determine whether Silverstein gets $3.5 billion or $7 billion to rebuild at Ground Zero.

Silverstein contends that the destruction of the World Trade Center constituted two attacks, because the twin towers were hit by hijacked airliners a little over 15 minutes apart.

He and downtown development officials have been counting on the larger figure to build the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower, other skyscrapers and cultural buildings on the site within the next decade.

The smaller amount could mean years of construction delays at the site, according to the agency in charge of downtown redevelopment.

"Anyone who's in New York knows that how much we recover from this lawsuit will have an impact on the rebuilding of this site," said Kevin M. Rampe, president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. The rebuilding costs have been estimated at between $7.45 billion and $7.86 billion, he said.

The proceedings could last months. A mediator's intervention, settlement talks and efforts by New York Gov. George E. Pataki and others failed to keep the case from going to trial.

For the insurance industry, the high dollar amounts make the case "precedent-setting and very notorious," said Don Griffin, assistant vice president of the industry group Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America.

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