April 3, 2008
Like the proverbial bad penny, Lucky Larry Silverstein keeps popping up. He’s back and he’s bad again. Not content with the nearly $4.6 billion in insurance payments he received to cover his losses at the World Trade Center, he is now seeking $12.3 billion in damages from the airlines and airport security companies for the 9/11 attack in a suit filed in 2004.
Not tainted enough by the fact that Silverstein & Partners took out a lease for 99 years in July of 2001 on the WTC, two months before the attack . . . not content Larry & Partners upped the insurance at that time to $3.5 billion and (presciently) to cover potential hits by airliners flown by “terrorist hijackers” . . .
Not content that Silverstein & Partners subsequently sued the insurers for $7 billion, considering the attack a double strike because separate liners hit Towers One and Two. Not content that Larry spent the next six years in litigation with the insurance companies, only to have the deal fortunately settled, brokered by then Governor Spitzer in 2007, yielding $4.55 to Lucky Larry and Partners . . .
Not content either that his personal stake in the lease was only some $14 million, the balance supplied by his partners. Not content that he made another $500 million on the destruction of his Tower 7, which he owned and quickly rebuilt bigger and better. Not content that no liner hit Tower 7 and that the fires were out, he announced at 3:30 p.m. on 9/11 that there had been so much pain and suffering that he and the NYFD decided to “pull it” — Tower 7 . . .
Not content that in fact at 5 p,m,, not even two hours later . . . Tower 7 went down at the freefall speed of gravity in a matter of seconds neatly into its own footprint, a classic “internal demolition.” Not content that you can’t set up an internal demolition on a 47-story steel-framed building in less than two hours or two days, or even two weeks. Not content that his “smoking gun” has attracted the attention of every 9/11 critic around the world . . .
Not content that the BBC made an incredible gaffe as a TV journo of theirs, supposedly in New York, reported that Tower 7 had fallen, that is, 26 minutes before it actually fell and with a News24 “time stamp” video to prove it. Not content that even Google had to pull the video . . . Larry Silverstein, the Oliver Twist of 9/11 disaster, is back, asking for more, sir, more please. Incredible! What colossal chutzpah!
But hey, Larry’s got reasons; boy, does he have reasons. His lawyers aired them in the United States Southeastern District Court in Manhattan, the same court in which the 9/11 victims families have been plaintiffs for cases to sue the airlines and security companies, and by the way, where 90 families have been turned down for lawsuits and only two remain who haven’t taken the money and shut up, and where Ellen Mariani has been consistently turned down and continues to be . . .
Yet,Larry’s lawyers have come to ask the wonderful Judge Hellerstein for more, the same Hellerstein who asked all the families to take the money and “move on” and told them that “money was the universal lubricant . . ." What goes around comes around.
By the way, the total claims involved come to about $23 billion. Silverstein’s chunk could endanger claims from other businesses and property owners, defense lawyers say. Why, Donald Migliori himself, the lawyer for the victims’ families, said he was confident “that their claims would not be affected because they would take priority over the property claims,” as reported by the New York Times. So they won’t be taking food from widows’ and children’s mouths to feed Larry, not this week at least.
Nevertheless, Desmond Barry, a lawyer for the airlines, said that if Lucky Larry won his claims, “He could push the total claims beyond the amount of insurance that the airlines and security companies have available. ‘There ain’t that much insurance,’ Mr. Barry said."
Silverstein’s laundry list for the $12.3 billion goes like this, “$8.4 billion for the replacement of destroyed buildings and $3.9 billion in ‘other costs,’ including $100 million a year in rent to the Port authority and $300 million a year in lost rental income, as well as the cost of marketing and leasing the new buildings.”
Mr. Barry, the Times tells us, reminded Silverstein’s folks that he “had been more than compensated by the nearly $4.6 billion insurance settlement, reached after almost six years of litigation. He argued that Mr. S. was entitled to the market value of the property, which he said had been established by the $3.2 billion.”
Judge Hellerstein was skeptical about Mr. Silverstein’s claim, and asked why he hadn’t sucked up his losses by just “walking away.” Hellerstein asked, “What’s the nature of your recovery,” to which Larry’s lawyer, Mr. Williamson, answered, “For damages suffered by the events of 9/11, not value. Damages.” He claimed the lease required Silverstein to rebuild and keep on paying rent.
Hellerstein retorted, “And so I’m putting to you if you walked away from the lease, you would lose the value of the lease . . . Would you have a further obligation to pay money?” Williamson answered, “You have to examine that question . . . But to me that’s not the test of what are our damages.”
When Hellerstein pressed for a dollar figure on damages, not the “precise amount,” i.e., “some order of magnitude would be appropriate,” Williamson balked. Barry said, “I think their claim is $12.3 billion.” Williamson added, “Plus prejudgment interest,” To which Hellerstein “tartly replied, ‘We shouldn’t forget that.’” They won’t let you, Alvin.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers added that even after many settlements, there are seven wrongful death and two injury cases remaining from the more than 90 filed. Migliori, the victims’ survivors’ lawyer, felt that the claims with property damage, including Lucky Larry and some insurance company looking to recoup payments, should allow the death and injury cases priority of payment of damages. Fair enough.
Judge Hellerstein passed on setting a trial date. He said that would be “fictitious,” yet set a deadline for fact-finding for Silverstein to offer more documentation of his claim — or risk losing it. Any trials, by the way, seem to be more than a year away.
The real caveat here is that to win a case of that size for damages, Silverstein would have to go to court for discovery. Meaning his lawyers could bring in every fireman who heard a blast, Silverstein himself for his “pull” remark, and even Hizzoner Rudy Giuliani for saying that morning, at 9:15 to ABC’s Peter Jennings, on the street that someone told him the towers were coming down. In short, you could grill ass like the devil until you found out what really happened.
Bottom line, Larry could get a billion dollar bone thrown at him, a take-the-money and-shut-up bone. Or Larry could end up in cement shoes, for real or legally. After all, Larry knew, going into the lease purchase that the Towers were asbestos-laden bombs, the first 60 floors sprayed with the building material when built from 1968 to ’72. And they were supposed to be taken down eventually, according to a 1971 New York Council ban on asbestos.
Obviously, the buildings couldn’t be legally taken down by explosion or implosion. They would have to be taken down piece by piece. The cost would be in the billions by today’s standards. But there was another way to take them down, wasn’t there?
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