Friedman Kaplan Obtains Judgment on All Claims in 7 World Trade Center Collapse Case
Friedman Kaplan attorneys successfully obtained summary judgment in a case brought by Con Edison against Friedman Kaplan's clients 7 World Trade Company, L.P. and Silverstein Properties, Inc. ("Silverstein"). The case involved the 7 World Trade Center office tower, which was damaged in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, burned for seven hours, and ultimately collapsed, destroying a Con Edison substation. Con Edison, together with its subrogated insurers, alleged that the building collapsed as a result of either a negligent design, or the introduction of negligently designed fuel systems, and claimed damages exceeding $250 million. The case involved extensive discovery and analysis by fire, structural engineering, and other experts.
Judgment was granted in favor of Silverstein on all of Con Edison's claims, in a decision issued by United States District Judge Alvin Hellerstein on September 23, 2011. Judge Hellerstein took note of the long and unusual chain of events that led to the destruction of the building, which included terrorists slipping through airport security, hijacking planes and crashing those planes into the Twin Towers; falling debris from the destroyed towers that ignited fires in 7 WTC, caused structural damage and knocked out 7 WTC's internal sprinkler system; and the inability of the New York City Fire Department to fight the fires due to the loss of hundreds of firefighters, damage to a water main that deprived the firefighters of water, and the need for the surviving firefighters to focus on search and rescue operations. The Court held that "[n]othing in common experience or history could give rise to a reasonably foreseeable risk relating to the chain of events flowing from the terrorists and their hijackings to the destruction of the Con Edison substation." Silverstein therefore "had no duty to Con Edison capable of giving rise to a finding of liability," and the Court found it unnecessary to examine further Con Edison's "confusing speculations" as to what Silverstein might have done differently in the design of the building.