Wednesday, May 7, 2008
In his latest FindLaw Writ Column, Tony Sebok addresses the recent decision by the New York Appellate Division affirming the jury's verdict against the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey for the 1993 World Trade Center attack. As Sebok notes, the jury found that the "Port Authority was 68% at fault and the terrorists 32% at fault for the attack."
On appeal, the Port Authority argued that the jury's verdict was "manifestly unreasonable." The Appellate Division, however, disagreed. Sebok points to two competing torts rationales - compensation versus fairness - as an underlying explanation:
From a full-compensation point of view, one might argue that the jury's verdict was reasonable enough, for we should err on the side of giving full compensation for the innocent victims at the WTC in 1993, not on the side of protecting the Port Authority's interest in paying for exactly the harm it caused and not a dollar more. Thus, even if it stretched credulity to deem the Port Authority more at fault than the terrorists, at least it served the interest of full compensation.
The Port Authority, however, contends that the harm to fairness here is too great to be borne. It points out that, even if the court invalidated the jury's finding that it was more than 50% liable (and hence more at fault than the terrorists), it would still have to pay plaintiffs' full economic damages. Only the non-economic (pain and suffering damages) would be apportioned according to fault.