Bavis Family Says Judge “Gutted” 9/11 Wrongful Death Case
BOSTON (AP) — Even after settling what had been the last wrongful death lawsuit against the airlines over the Sept. 11 attacks, the family of Mark Bavis warned on Wednesday that neither those companies, nor government regulators have done enough to prevent another, similar catastrophe.
“Such a tragedy … should never again be the result of lack of oversight or preparation or because lobbyists have so much influence and power in Washington, D.C., that American lives are at risk,” the Bavis family said in a public letter released two days after the settlement was announced.
“Our government’s job is to protect the people — from foreign armies, terrorists and even our own American corporations. It is time that our elected officials take responsibility for the authority we have given them.”
Mark Bavis was a scout for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings who was on his way to training camp on United Flight 175 out of Boston when it was flown into the south tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 — one of four planes hijacked in the deadliest terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil.
The Bavises were among 95 families that chose not to file a claim with the government-backed $7 billion Victims Compensation Fund that was established to protect the airlines from an expected deluge of lawsuits and provide a quick resolution for the surviving heirs. The other families had all settled by the 10th anniversary of the attacks, but the Bavises said they would not because they were determined to expose the failures of the airline industry that allowed the armed hijackers onto the planes.
In the letter released on Wednesday, though, the family said it reversed course because said U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein “essentially gutted the case so that the truth about what led to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, would never be told at trial.”
“With the stroke of his pen, Judge Hellerstein very cleverly changed this lawsuit,” the letter said. “The lawsuit was about wrongful death, gross negligence and a complete lack of appreciation for the value of human life. He instead made it a case about a federal regulation.”
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
“The tragic events of 9/11 impacted all of us, and we are pleased to resolve this case,” United Airlines said in a statement Monday after the settlement was announced. St. Louis-based Huntleigh USA Corp., a security company that also was named in the lawsuit, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In interviews with The Associated Press last month as he approached the 10th anniversary of his identical twin brother’s death, Mike Bavis said the family was dissatisfied with the official government investigation and wanted to press its case for answers and accountability. The family and its lawyers say their case has been the most comprehensive investigation yet on the failures of airline security.
In it, they found nine security screeners who had never heard of Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida; neither had Huntleigh’s director of training and its general manager at Logan International Airport. The lawyers also wrote in court documents that a majority of the screeners on duty at the Flight 175 checkpoint that morning were immigrants who spoke limited English. One had such a poor grasp of English that she required an interpreter during her deposition.
But much of the information that could provide solace to the families of the Sept. 11 victims — and force the airlines to bolster security to prevent future attacks — was sealed by Hellerstein, Migliori said in an interview with the AP. The family had called for all of the court documents to be publicly available at the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center site.
“We, and other 9/11 families, wanted answers,” Wednesday’s letter said. “We want that information to be available to whoever cares to read it. It is important to us that some change comes out of the information held in those briefs.”
Addressing the families of the other 9/11 victims, the letter said, “Our family envisioned a day when you could hear all the evidence, evidence that would provide an important step in moving beyond the events of that day.
“This process has taken a toll on us that only you could understand,” the letter said. “We fought this long for two reasons, because we valued Mark’s life in the time spent together, the shared experiences and the expectation of what life would continue to be. Secondly, the truth as to why this happened so easily should be important. Mark did not have to endure the tragedy that ended his life and neither did your loved ones.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)