The decision allowed plaintiffs to proceed with lawsuits worth potentially millions of dollars for damages against the agency. Port authority spokesman Steve Coleman says the agency is in the process of preparing an appeal.
A crucial factor in the jurys decision was a 1985 security report that recommended the agency close its underground parking garage to the public, use guards and conduct random searches. "The jury...apparently determined that the 1993 bombing was foreseeable and preventable because a 1985 security report warned of the possibility of such an attack," notes Daniel J. Ansell, a lawyer and chairman of real estate operations for local firm Greenberg Traurig LLP. "Accordingly, property owners face a dilemma in determining how to respond to security recommendations, because failure to implement such recommendationsregardless of cost or inconveniencecould result in substantial liability."
Coleman says the lawsuits will not influence future agency decisions on security assessment reports.
Walter K. Olson, senior fellow at the Center for Legal Policy, notes that in other cases agencies are being sued for conducting similar security measures. In 1993, the port authority might have been sued anyway if it in fact had closed the garage to the public and conducted random searches, he says.Manhattan jury ruled Oct. 26 that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was negligent in the 1993 terrorist bombing in a World Trade Center parking garage that killed six people. The jury found the agency to be 68% liable for the bombing and the terrorists who committed it to be 32% liable.