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Port Authority has governmental immunity for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing

September 22nd, 2011

As reported in the New York Law Journal today, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has governmental immunity against liability for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center by terrorists who parked an explosive-laden truck in its underground parking lot, a narrowly divided state Court of Appeals ruled this morning.

Six people were killed in the attack and hundreds were hurt. Many of those injured and the survivors of those killed argued in suits that the Port Authority ignored repeated warnings by security experts about the vulnerability of the parking garages to bombers.

Today’s ruling overturns a decision by the Appellate Division, First Department, which found the Port Authority 68 percent responsible for the attacks and the terrorists 32 percent responsible. The Port Authority has argued for years that it makes no sense to hold the agency twice as responsible for the damages for an attack willfully launched by terrorists.Now a 4-3 majority of the state’s highest court has accepted the agency’s position.  The governmental immunity doctrine is “intended to afford deference to the exercise of discretion by the officials of municipalities and governmental entities,” especially with regard to the allocation of limited police resources, Judge Theodore T. Jones Jr. wrote for the majority.  “Governmental entities cannot be expected to be absolute, infallible guarantors of public safety, but in order to encourage them to engage in the affirmative conduct of diligently investigating security vulnerabilities and implementing appropriate safeguards, they must be provided with the latitude to render those critical decisions without threat of legal repercussions,” Judge Jones wrote in Matter of World Trade Center Bombing Litigation v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 217.

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