Two days before the second anniversary of the attacks in New York and Washington, District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said on Tuesday families of 70 victims who chose to sue instead if accepting compensation payments can do so.
The legal cases names United Airlines, American Airlines and the Boeing Corporation, which made the four planes that were hijacked and flown into the Twin Towers and Pentagon.
Also named in the suits is the port authority of New York and New Jersey, a public entity that owned the Twin Towers, and airport security firm Argenbright Security Incorporated.
The aviation defendants have admitted the safety of the crew and passengers in the planes used in the attacks was their duty.
But the latest decision involves victims inside the WTC and the Pentagon and entities that suffered property damage.
The plaintiffs say the airlines could have done a better job of preventing hijackers from taking control of the planes. They also claim Boeing’s cockpit design failed to provide proper security in the face of hijackers.
“Terrorism, not negligence, is the issue at hand,” said Boeing spokesman Ken Mercer.
As for the World Trade Centre, plaintiffs say it was poorly designed for evacuation.
More than $565 million has been paid out in compensation to victims of the attacks from a Congressional fund created to avoid litigation that could clog courts.
Payments have ranged from $500 to $6.8 million for one victim who received major injuries.
The average payment to the families of those who died was $1.5 million while so-called non-economic damages are limited to $250,000.