Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in:  Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 12 April, 2002, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
World Trade Center: Is litigation the answer?
The husband of a woman who died inside the World Trade Center on 11 September has sued American Airlines for more than $50m in compensatory damages.

In addition, the suit includes a claim for unspecified punitive damages for terror, pain and suffering, wrongful death and economic loss.

The case is just one of many lawsuits filed in the wake of the terrorist attacks on America.

Several hundred residents of New York have lodged claims against the city authorities for the way the rescue operation was organised.

They include firefighters, who claim they were not adequately protected from the toxic fumes given off by the burning buildings.

A German lawyer is also investigating whether families of European victims of the attacks could be entitled to millions of dollars in compensation.

Should people be using the courts to get compensation?

This Talking Point was suggested by Helen, UK :

The husband of a victim in the World Trade Center attack is suing American Airlines for $50,000 for failing to do more to prevent the tragedy. Although our thoughts remain with the victims and their families, do you think the "sue" culture is going to far?

If you have any suggestions for Talking Points, please click here.

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The comments regarding Americans being selfish is so way off the mark as to be laughable. Before moving to this country I had the same view. Through the European press the general consensus was that Uncle Sam looked after their own and to hell with everyone else. Similarly the average citizen didn't give a monkeys for his fellow citizen and that they were a country without a faith in God. Well come and live here for a time and then see the truth.

Of course there are greedy Wall Street analysts, accountants and brokers, however I have found, to my complete surprise that the average citizen, even in the North East where I live (In Rhode Island) are always willing to support the have-nots and downtrodden. The level of church-going puts Britain and Europe to shame. Charities in general have never had it so good and the level of support after 9/11 was staggering. Why the world is so ready to condemn the average citizen of this great country for the misdeeds of a few is beyond me. You can never account for the greed of some and I do not agree with this particular lawsuit. However this is one individual not a nation.
Allan Gregory, USA (ex-pat Brit)

While I have nothing but the most profound sympathy for all those who lost family and friends (including myself) in the WTC disaster, attempting to find one of the victims culpable reflects more on the emotionally disturbed state of mind of the litigant than the legal system. American Airlines employs thousands of people, many of whom lost colleagues and friends - such a law suit jeopardizes their careers, their families and grossly insults the memory of those lost to this tragedy.
Mark M. Newdick, US/UK

If litigation is the only recourse, then sue this and previous administrations for giving the terrorists the financial means and training to carry out such an attack and for letting them into the country in the first place. Do you see how this becomes a circular argument? Learn from the mistakes made and move forward. Suing people only prolongs the healing process.
Ward Swan, USA

No, he should not be able to sue the airlines. Nothing could have predicted nor prevented such horrible events. Attorneys who encourage and represent such lawsuits should be disbarred.
Linda, USA

People donated millions after the disaster and the victims saw none of the cash

Volker, England (ex Germany)
As usual, people donated millions (to the richest, freest country on Earth) after the disaster and the victims saw none of the cash. It was probably used to ferry a few politicians round the country to give speeches and improve their powerbase for the next elections. Well done America.
Volker, England (ex Germany)

And what good will it do him? It won't bring his wife back. What use is all that money if your lifetime partner isn't there to share it with you? He is being selfish and greedy and suing AA is an insult to all those that died - including his wife. The airline lost a lot of employees and passengers as well. As a result of the attacks several airline employees (not just in AA) were made redundant and some airlines even went bankrupt. I work in the air travel industry and we had to take a pay cut after September 11 just to keep our jobs. I haven't even considered suing AA, UA, bin Laden, Bush or anyone because of this and I have experienced financial loss. But there are far more important things in this short life than money - thank God I still have those.
Jennifer, UK

I don't believe this to be a case of the entire nation being greedy, litigous fools. That is hardly the case. Most Americans, hopefully, would find this suit to be irreprehensible. One plaintiff and her council do not represent the entire American society. What is certain is that perhaps the stupidity of this suit will help to put in the forefront the need in the US Civil Courts for a "Loser Pays" system, much like those in every other country.
E. Bonnett, Illinois, United States

There is a saying that it is better to let a few who are guilty go free then to imprison those who are innocent. Therefore it is better to allow the occasional frivolous lawsuit then to deny a true victim what may be their one and only recourse.
Saul, USA via Germany

the airlines are not responsible for the safety of the citizenry, the government is

Basil K.
Who is expected to guarantee the security of the citizens? Well, the government, of course. Who gave so many Afghans fanatical religious texts, trained them and then left them to their own devices? Washington, of course, which helped create this experiment... The ends justified the means in the Cold War, looking long-term was not the goal obviously. And how come the government did not look into airport security see the problems with security before? I am not calling for suing anyone, but the first institution is the government, the airlines are not responsible for the safety of the citizenry, the government is.
Basil K.

You'll probably never post this but I thought I'd mention that I actually met the judge in the infamous "coffee in the lap" case when I served as a juror a few years ago. I have almost an insider's view of this now infamous case that I will now share for your enlightenment. The reason McDonalds lost that case is because they lost previous cases in Europe that required the Clown and Company to cool down their coffee by 15 degrees. McDonalds, it should be mentioned, did comply with the European ruling. However McDonald's continued to serve their coffee at the "unsafe" temperature and even advertised that they had the hottest coffee around. The woman received horrible burns to her genitals that required several reconstructive surgeries. When the jury heard about the previous cases in Europe and the finding of the courts in the EU they gave McDonalds the punishment they felt the Clown and Company deserved. However I still have to ask the question, "What kind of fool puts a hot substance in-between their legs and right next to their most favourite organ?"

As for this situation that is being discussed I must say that I think the man should sue, but not for money. He and other secondary victims of September 11 should sue to demand that the airlines do the utmost best to provide Americans and visitors using our national airlines the security they deserve. Obviously this was something that was not provided at all on September 11.
Paul M. Barden, United States of America

I don't know why some Americans take everything bad that is said about their country so personally. Just because we are 'allies' does not mean we have to become snivelling sycophants and praise every aspect of your 'wonderful' country. Every society has its undesirable elements, Britain included. Quite why Americans always see themselves as 'the good guys' who never do anything to harm others and live in some kind of advanced utopian society is beyond me. September the 11th should have made Americans more aware of the part that their country plays on this planet, and it isn't always a positive role that appeases everyone. Just ask the Cubans.
Andrew, NZ

You say Americans try to get money from everything. Americans value money more than life itself. I say look at yourself. You are absolutely no better. When was the last time you quit your job to join a charity? Or how much money have you given a large sum of money to a starving kid on a street? None of you are any better.
David B.

When was the last time you quit your job to join a charity?

David B.

Where ordinary human beings see tragedy, the lawyers sees opportunities to make money.
Mick Tomas, Canada

It's too bad that so many of you have taken this opportunity to slam Americans once again, though it's no surprise, given the biased news coverage you receive. Paul calls himself a "Brit living in the USA" and says that most Americans even applaud the decision to sue. Not anyone I know, Paul. Most people I've spoken to and reports I've read reveal that many think it's the usual greedy lawyers preying on grieving victims and inducing them to sue for big money so they will be the ones getting rich. Sick, yes, but not at all indicative of all or most Americans.
m moran, usa

I dread to think what is going through the minds of those who want to sue the Airlines. What will be the reward? I think the greater pressure should be made on Airlines to invest money on security. Any amount of money will not compensate for the loss of so many lives
Rachel, Ethiopia/London

Obviously overwhelming sentiment against any use of the Court to exact a measure of financial return represents the majority of responses. I ask you consider a simple legal principal, namely joint and several liability. If the airlines had a role to play in the disaster, say as little as 10%, why ought they not be responsible for that portion of damage together with the damages owed by those who will not be at any civil trial, such as Bin Laden.
Peter, USA

The airlines are responsible for security and for proper communication to authorities about the location of their planes at all times

Bobby, Canada
The airlines should definitely be sued. They must be punished and pay compensation to all the victims' families including the families of the suspected terrorists. The airlines are responsible for security and for proper communication to authorities about the location of their planes at all times. The airlines are also responsible to challenge and make corrections to information released to the public. And in the aftermath of September 11 the airlines remain responsible for racial discrimination cases against certain passengers.
Bobby, Canada

Why haven't the airports shown video evidence of the hijackers entering the planes Isn't there even one surveillance camera which has recorded these hijackers entering the planes and going past security ?
Geoff, UK

And why not sue the owners of the twin towers as well? This is ridiculous greed.
Powellba, USA

Can you all hear Bin Laden laughing?

The action should be against the US government, for it's the foreign policy & general arrogant behaviour of the US that has given the fanatics the ammunition that they needed to mount this attack. It is ludicrous to sue the airlines.
Hugh Oxburgh, UK

Why not sue the Saudi moneybags?

Where there is a will there is a way. No matter how good or bad security was or is the terrorists would have achieved their goal. American Airlines should not be sued for the September 11 attacks. All of the agencies and businesses involved need to improve to attempt to stop such things from happening again, but it is impossible to stop them all.
Steve Exner, USA

To sue the Airlines takes so much away from the Spirit of Unity the American people achieved during the aftermath of this act of war upon our Country

Tammie Rouse, USA
United We Stand. The tears. The flags. The pictures of the emergency workers at the WTC. To sue the Airlines takes so much away from the Spirit of Unity the American people achieved during the aftermath of this act of war upon our Country. United We Stand is how the majority of Americans will continue to deal with this. And I for one am proud to be an American. The tears are still very close to the surface.
Tammie Rouse, USA

You have to admit, airline and airport security was absurdly bad, and still is pretty lame. Litigation for monetary reward may not be the best curse of action though, criminal charges against those responsible for security would be more appropriate.
Stepen, USA

Good grief! It never ceases to amaze me how much the UK salivates at the opportunity to take pot-shots at Americans. I recall something on the news about a French handicapped kid suing his doctor for not aborting him. Where was the moral outrage then? Oh, that's right, it wasn't an American! The fact that our "image" is so grossly distorted to the side of greed and corruption is because that's what you, the recipients of the news, love to wallow in.

To all of the Brits beginning their commentary with "As usual..." I would say: as usual, the mass media's dumbed-down, simplistic reporting has led the common person - who otherwise might think for him/herself - to instead indulge in the practice of stereotyping a society. In fact, American Airlines can and should be considered partly culpable for what happened. US airline corporations are notoriously greedy--greedy at the expense of seat space, low fares, and security. Whether this plaintiff should receive $50 million in damages - that's for a jury or judge to decide.
John Jeffrey McGinnis, San Francisco, USA

American Airlines didn't cause the crashes. AA could not have foreseen the crashes. They should not be sued. The US is the most litigious society on earth. I believe the vast majority of these kinds of suits are thought of and initiated by lawyers, not be the plaintiffs. Like spilling hot coffee in your lap when driving a car.....absurd
Tim T., USA

Nobody could have predicted the sheer horror that was inflicted.

Paul, USA
These lawsuits are as sad as they are predictable. There is no doubt that great losses were suffered by a great many people. These lawsuits won't change that and do not remedy a wrong. Worse they point the blame in the wrong direction --unless of course deep pockets make it the right direction. Fine -- go bankrupt a company or two. Put a few more thousand out of work and drive up the cost of plane tickets yet further. Its easy to say after the fact that American Airlines could have taken more precautions. Nobody could have predicted the sheer horror that was inflicted, nor the manner in which it was inflicted. These lawsuits are an absolute disgrace on top of a terrible tragedy.
Paul, USA

Prediction has nothing to do with it, nor does $50M or the pilots, let alone their families; the law suit is about the breach of a duty of care owed by the airlines to customers and the public as a result of foreseeable risks of terrorism which they failed to properly or at all consider. Insurance funds will always be at risk to those who thimblerig an argument for pecuniary return. Failing to try and hold airlines and others, including the FAA, to the appropriate legal standard does us all a disservice.
Peter, CA

Not only was American Airlines was just as much a victim as the passengers, in that they lost staff and aircraft, but also subsequently a lot of people either didn't fly or flew with other airlines, leaving American with huge losses. The health of all airlines in the US is under a cloud since Sept 11; this lawsuit could be the final blow for AA. Some people's brains seem to be in their wallet.
Lynn K., USA

I feel that this woman is suing the wrong people. American and United airlines were as much victims of this attack as the passengers and the people on the ground. The groups culpable in her loss are the airports, who failed to provide adequate security, and the Muslim extremists that instigated the attacks
Tony, UK

Airlines in the United States have consistently scoffed at security.

Stacey Turner, American in UK
While I agree that the widower should not receive anything from a Victim's fund, which was set up to help struggling families who lost one or more wage-earners, I do agree with him suing the airlines.

Airlines in the United States have consistently scoffed at security, safety devices, reports from the FAA, and pretty much anything else beyond the minimum required by law to keep their passengers and their assets (the planes) in one piece. Airlines will cut costs where and when they can, and security at airports is just a victim of aggressive cutting of corners for a better bottom line.
Stacey Turner, American in the UK

I can't comment on this particular case, because I don't possess all of the facts. The general point that I do feel able to make is that populations have to share in the responsibility of actions by governments and business who, more often than not, operate within a prevailing climate of their electorate's whims and desires. I understand that the US business lobby has, at least until now, favoured a regime of relatively relaxed controls at domestic airports? Similarly in the UK, Margaret Thatcher was voted in time and again because she cut income tax, yet many of those who supported her now whinge and moan that our public services are not properly funded and have apparently fallen behind many of our competitors'. You can't have it all ways!
Robert Crosby, Nottingham, UK

I am not going to bash the "Lawsuit Culture" of the U.S, because the UK has a "Claim Culture" of its own. However, I don't think that putting yourself through a stressful and inevitably lengthy lawsuit process would in any way help you get closure on the death of a loved one. It is part of the grieving process to blame someone, but ten years down the line when the lawsuit is still churning around the courts all the husband will have done is stretched out the agony and pain of the loss of his wife.
Stephen, N.Ireland

The requested amount aside (which is up to a judge anyway), the man has the right to question the culpability of the airlines, whose security systems have always been suspect anyway. If there was negligence, would it not be better to address it rather than wallow in sentimentality such as, "Suing won't bring anyone back!" As if that cliché is the point of any lawsuit: What, then, is the point of going after a murderer, if that process doesn't bring the victim back? Well, convicting a murderer stops them from murdering again. If AA was criminally negligent, what better way to force it to change? Or does everyone assume that just because of Sept. 11 airlines will no longer care about profits over safety? I wouldn't bet my life on that assumption.
Zef, Canada

I am going to become a hermit on a deserted Island as I can't take reading/hearing the news anymore

Andrew Lynch, Singapore/UK
I give up. I am going to become a hermit on a deserted Island as I can't take reading/hearing the news anymore. We really are a society where money is more important than life itself. But to all the America bashers out there, we are no better in the UK. The compensation culture has become a sick joke. I hope this man bankrupts himself fighting this case, and spends the rest of his life in poverty. Then he may learn humility and dignity.
Andrew Lynch, Singapore / UK

It definitely is a step to far. Just imagine this:

  • You hate a particular country
  • You incite acts of terror against that country.
  • You encourage victims' families to sue the economic icons of that country.
  • You laugh all the way to the bank!
Is this the new diplomacy? If so, we are a sick world...
Rhys Jaggar, England

We should not accept courts as a way to enrich ourselves. This regardless of what was the incident. A reasonable compensation for suffered true physical damage is adequate and this should be determined by a separate compensation authority. In serious dispute matters could be taken to the court but even in that case the compensation should be proportional to the loss and something to do with reality. The American legal practices should be opposed to last breath. They are there primarily to make people and lawyers rich on misfortune of somebody else.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

Why doesn't the American government sue the airlines over poor security then put that money into a fund and distribute it equally between people who have been affected by it all? It must be better than one greedy person having the lot! This policy could be used on lots of cases all over the world and discourage people from suing for millions for their gain, if automatically victims are supported by the state (in an ideal world of course)
Neil, London, UK

I take it any money won through this action will be donated to a suitable charity?

Tom, UK
If this case is about accountability and not about greed, as so many people are saying, I take it any money won through this action will be donated to a suitable charity? Thus the airline would be held accountable and punished financially. Then the person suing could not be accused of self-centred greed and profiteering at the expense of this tragedy. Oh, and before the Americans accuse people of other nations of stereotyping them as greedy, money-grabbing litigants they should take a step back and consider what sort of image their country projects throughout the world for so many others to believe this.
Tom, UK

That's shameful opportunism. Poor American Airlines, haven't they suffered enough this year?
Tracey, USA

Lawyers in a way were directly responsible for the September 11 massacre. A couple of years ago the airlines were sued for "racial profiling" arab passengers. So on September th all the obvious signs were ignored out of fear of the parasitic lawyers. A group of Arabs travelling first class who bought their one way tickets with cash. Alarm bells should have gone off.
Alan, USA

Looking back, it is clear that the airlines involved were fully aware of consistent pattern of deplorable security lapses at major airports, and took no action to ensure the safety of their passengers. Even after the tragic consequences of September 11, airlines have been hesitant to adopt additional security measures favouring corporate profits over safety. Perhaps such a verdict will teach the airlines that the public will no longer tolerate such choices, and will teach them that ensuring the safety of the travelling public needs to be part of their corporate business plans.
Michael C, US

I am generally not in favour of frivolous lawsuits. But this case is overflowing with government negligence and complicity, so some form of justice must be reached.
Bob, USA

No. The Airlines should be sued where negligence is proven. Otherwise, Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda should be sued.
Joel Donbatalla, USA

I have spent the last few hours with a New Yorker who volunteered for 37 days of duty digging up the bodies from the World Trade Centre. Please don't judge the US by what our lawyers do. It's a free country and they can sue whoever they want to. However they don't represent the US. Those still digging and those bodies from 86 countries do.
Jim in Dallas USA, USA

I agree with all those suing involved agencies and offices. But in the end all these lawsuits would have to be put together and the law would have to provide justifiable compensation to all those affected once.
Jee, India

Can we please for a moment think beyond the material aspect of everything?

Suing has become the solution to everything in this country. Can we please for a moment think beyond the material aspect of everything?

I have been practising law in the US for over 20 years and in my opinion this lawsuit well illustrates the depths of depravity to which the United States "civil justice" system has fallen. In World War II, who would have thought of suing the owner of the ship sunk by Japanese submarines or the owner of the apartment block destroyed during the Blitz? These are casualties of war, and to allow one victim to sue another victim for injuries caused by a wartime enemy is madness.
Douglas Levene, USA

I totally disagree with that woman's decision to sue, but I don't think it's right for Europeans to once again bash and attack American society out of jealousy (as is often the case) You attack our capitalistic beliefs and our system, which has made us the most powerful nation the earth has ever known. This is a greedy woman, but don't start whining like little babies who hate the other babies for having a bigger cradle.
Michael G, USA

Sure, yeah, if you want to make money out of dead people, sue the airlines. We are in living in a 'modern' society of no ethics anyway.
Haseeb, USA

Well all I can say after reading the posts of our friends in the UK is: with friends like you who needs an enemy?.
John Wilson, US

It seems that the key message people are posting is that the airlines should put safety above profitability. However most people do seem to be disgusted by the greed of someone demanding 50million dollars. In my opinion a greed driven, litigation driven society will do more to destroy an enlightened culture than any bomb or plane crash. The government is there to protect its citizens. They must be the ones who create a global marketplace where key drivers are towards efficiency without compromising safety.
Chris R, UK

To all, currently only one American is looking to cash in via the courts, only one.
Eric Miller, USA

This is why there will never be enough lawyers in the US - the demand is just too high!

Serg, Canada
This is very sad but unfortunately it is the fact of American life - money. Americans try to get money from everything. In this case they are being so unethical it is beyond sad - the opportunity suddenly arose for them to get money from the deaths of their loved ones. It is plain wrong! They are exploiting the death of their loved ones. However, this is the good old USA for you. When in doubt - sue! Usually, a million bucks will do. This is why there will never be enough lawyers in the US - the demand is just too high! It is becoming a new business. And this latest lawsuit against the airlines is just more proof that money is everything in that country. People even sued Osama bin Laden for a few million dollars! Makes any sense? Unless you are an American, it doesn't.
Serg, Canada

This is yet another example of a money-hungry society driven by greedy lawyers. Would such a suit open the floodgates for Afghan civilians to sue the U.S. Government for the deaths of their loved ones in air raids? I think not.
David, Australia

I am a Brit living in the US. I was interested to note that most Americans support, applaud even, the decision to sue whereas most Europeans do not. I think this shows some basic differences in the two societies, even though some of the American lawyers claim that the juridical system here is based on English law. This is important - it may be based on English law but has nevertheless been shaped by American society and as such reflects the best and worst of it just like any other judicial system. In the US Litigation Rules.
Phil, USA

My current candidate for the horsemen of the apocalypse would be those magicians that call themselves lawyers such as those who try to capitalize on such tragedies. They make our whole species look bad.
Ian H, USA

I want to know were has all the money gone that is still being collected, and why is this husband not entitled to it?
Nic, USA

Suing the airline is not the answer. The INS in America could have prevented the tragedy if they had better surveillance. When passengers board any commercial carrier, they are not expecting any problem whether it is a terrorist, a problem with the aircraft, or the pilot. Things do happen. Is money going to bring back the victim or ease the pain of the loss? No.
Sherwood Wile, USA

It should be accepted as a causality of war

Atri Guha, USA
The airline companies were completely unaware of the tragedy about to unfold on September 11, and it was beyond their comprehension that unarmed assailants could use airplanes as missiles. It must feel terrible to lose a close one in these dire circumstances, but it should be accepted as a causality of war. It sure is unjustified to blame the airline industry for WTC disaster.
Atri Guha, USA

I strongly oppose any attempts to make money out of death. September the 11 was truly awful, but to sue the airlines for compensation is just wrong. Material gain won't bring the victims back, therefore it is pointless.
Peter Bolton, UK/US

I wonder if that person who's planning to sue AA is going to feel any better if she wins the case, or does she think that her husband would return from all this? It's sad that people try to put a dollar value on a loved-one like that. Just like her, AA too lost it's staff but who is AA going to sue? Boeing for not building these jets to survive a catastrophe like this or the WTC builders for not building it to withstand an airplane crash? This lawsuit sounds ridiculous! The poor victims are never going to come back and money can never replace the emptiness in life. Only way to deal with a loss like that is through prayers and coming to terms with uncertainty of life.
Jan, Australia

It's really sad that people think there is always someone else to blame for a tragedy. The airline couldn't have screened adequately to avert the events that happened, given what details they were given by the government. They are seeing for wilful misconduct when there is no proof they had prior information this would happen on this(or any other particular) flight.
Don Saxton, U.S.A.

It will not bring anybody back and it will only do a disservice to the memories of loved ones to know that they can be replaced with the almighty dollar

John B, USA
This is the first well known incident of a hijacked airplane being used as a bomb. Almost every other hijacking has resulted in the airliner being diverted to another airport and the passengers being taken hostage in return for demands. That "hijack and ransom" mentality has been the status quo for hijackings for many, many years. So when the 11 September hijackings took place, there is no doubt how everyone felt the hijacking would end - on some runway somewhere. How was anyone to know that the planes were actually to be used as missiles? Just what do people expect the airlines to do? Require a full, multi-national background check with the purchase of every ticket? This lawsuit is nothing more than a vie for money. It will not bring anybody back and it will only do a disservice to the memories of loved ones to know that they can be replaced with the almighty dollar.
John B, USA

Suing the airline is like suing your carmaker if a drunk drives into you in a head on collision. Why not sue God himself? After all he could have prevented it.
Eddy, USA

I have nothing but sympathy for those who lost friends and family on 11 September, but this lawsuit is wrong. Al-Qaeda terrorists murdered those people, not American Airlines.
Steve, Merseyside, England

I can understand the people suing. They are devastated by their loss. We should be looking at how to prevent this tragedy from happening again, not penalising all and sundry. The innocents in all this - the people buying tickets, the victims' memories, even this man included, will pay the price.
Heather, USA

There is a case to be made

Vid Watts, UK
Clearly airline security was inadequate, so there is a case to be made. My question is why $50m plus trauma? A more limited claim would be reasonable. You can't place a value on a life so you have to value what else has been lost - such as earnings, and then have an element on top to recognise the loss, not compensate for it. I'd suggest loss of earnings plus $50,000.
Vid Watts, UK

Come on, it's no surprise at all. The winners will be the big fatcat lawyers. It stinks, like so many other issues that happen here and in the US on a regular basis.
Barbara, England

These people are just looking to blame someone, it is part of the grieving process.
Chris Warwick, UK

To sue American Airlines is to assume that they were responsible for the hijackers. The next step is to sue the families of the air attendants or pilots on each flight because they didn't stop the hijackers. Everybody lost on 11 September. Looking for sense by suing those closest to the happening will not solve a thing.
Helen McLaughlin, Netherlands

American Airlines' actions may have facilitated these horrific events

Chris, UK
Domestic airlines in the US have continually resisted new security measures suggested by the FAA - even when the US Government offered to pick up the tab. Profit has continually been put before safety and I am shocked that the US public put up with it. American Airlines must face the fact that its actions may well have facilitated these horrific events and if found liable must face the consequences.
Chris, UK

The airlines were in a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. For years the American consumer, under the guise of freedom, was pushing the airlines hard to make internal flying easier. They made it very clear that going through security checks was not something they wanted to put up with. Now they are reaping the results they want to sue - I'd imagine they would have sued if they felt the security was too strict and stopped them living their lives the way they wanted. You can't have it both ways.
Iain, UK

In times of crisis people often turn to their faith. Unfortunately, all too many worship money.
Helen, UK

I hope ALL the victims sue the airlines

Vish, London, UK
Why not? Why can't people who suffered as a result of the airline's insatiable greed get some money? They didn't have security checks, so as not to inconvenience their passengers. They wanted to make money, they put the safety of the public at risk, they took the gamble and lost. I hope that ALL the victims sue the airlines and make them pay for their greed.
Vish, London, UK

What everyone here is missing is that the airline may be sued but it is the insurance companies which pick up the tab. Most of the insurance claims from this attack will end up in Lloyds in London - so all our insurance premiums will rise to cover the losses from this. The Americans won't pick up the tab - we do.
Bec H, UK

When the airlines put up flight prices to cover the cost of this lawsuit, can we sue the person who brought the suit for causing price rises for the rest of us?
Stefanie, England

The only surprising thing about this action is that it has taken almost seven months to be started. The biggest problem that both United and American Airlines are going to have is that a precedent has already been set. Pan-Am were successfully sued over the Lockerbie bombing and look what happened to them.
Paul C, UK

The American dream was based on teamwork and not on suing other victims

Sara, US
I have lost loved ones and I replay their last minutes in my mind often, so my heart goes out to the victims of 11 September. It was an act of war and no one could ever do anything to protect us from it. The thought that humanity can protect civilised people from deranged people is flawed. It would be prohibitive if we expect to be protected from all evil. We live in a society based on assumptions that have allowed us to prosper. We assume that all individuals seek freedom, justice, and honour; we assume that civilised, educated and reasonable people do not ram planes against buildings. We need to accept that there is some risk in living and we cannot hold others responsible for death. The American dream was based on hard work, ingenuity, teamwork and determination, not on suing other victims.
Sara, US

Money can't take away the pain, bring back the dead or right terrible wrongs. Perhaps this compensation should be renamed "opportunistic self-enrichment". This would seem to be a truer motive.
Ben M, Australia

As an American law student I resent your uninformed perspective on our legal system. Perhaps in the UK people can expect the government to punish corporations that put profits over the safety of their customers. Here in America the only way to effect change in a corporation is to hit them where it hurts, in their wallet. Often litigation is the best and only way to do that.
Mark, US

Can Afghan civilians sue the US Air Force?
Ben Drake, York, UK

There may well be a legal case against the airlines but there certainly is no moral justification for making use of it for personal gain. Only one person will gain and the burden will be passed to every one of us through the effect on the airline industry and the market response to the financial loss. Unfortunately I'm sure the US legal system being as it is that this opportunistic and selfish case will succeed.
Phillip Holley, UK

No one will win from this claim in the long run

Sam Sethi, UK
I fully agree with many of the common sense comments put forward here by other readers. No one will win from this claim in the long run. And yet in the good old USA it is clear that adults are not responsible for their own actions. Remember how McDonalds was sued for too hot coffee spilt on the claimants lap whilst driving, and cigarette companies were sued for cancer? I am afraid clever lawyers will argue and probably win this case and so we will all have less freedom and rights in the long run when airline companies increase costs to cover these claims and close certain dangerous routes.
Sam Sethi, UK

To Sam Sethi: I agree with you about people needing to take responsibility for their own actions. However, you might be unaware that airlines were reprimanded and warned over poor security for many, many years; in fact, since back in the heyday of the PLO hijackings. If the insurance policy of the airline does not cover this sort of thing - and most likely there is an exclusion by which they can get out of it - then the airline's answer will be to lay off more workers to cover their alleged losses. I think the plaintiff in this case would do well to find that out before proceeding. If he is successful in his lawsuit, he would then be wise to use the compensation not just for himself but for the most needy in this situation. Sadly, the Pennsylvania crash victims seem to have been forgotten in the shadow of New York.
Jennifer Ethington, US

It is hardly surprising that these actions are taking place in the litigation capital of the world (New York). No doubt these cases will drag on for years and years, with claims and counter-claims passing from one set of lawyers to another. The only ones who will get any sizeable financial gain from it all will be the ambulance-chasing law firms.
Rod, UK

I see nothing wrong in this

Richard, UK
If the airline could have averted such a tragedy by taking some appropriate precautions, why shouldn't a bereaved person sue for damage? The fact is that the issue is put before a court to decide and in order to gain an award, the claimant must persuade a judge (possibly a jury in the US) that appropriate precautions were not taken. I see nothing wrong in this. If it is established that despite taking appropriate precautions the incident would still have happened, the airline will be free of any liability; and that is justice.
Richard, UK

It's only a matter of time before some disgruntled American tries to sue God for the weather. Particularly petty is the fact that the litigant is apparently well taken care of by her partner's life assurance, but wants a slice of the compensation funds set up for those who were not so fortunate.
Guy Chapman, UK

Guess what? We're talking about a few people. I think that the majority of people involved with the Trade Center attacks have behaved well, without greed and with great compassion. You can bet that not everyone believes that this is the best thing to do. However, let's not give up on the whole process because some want to exercise their right to the courts. All of you who make comments about greedy, money-grubbing Americans are guilty of the same finger pointing as Bin Laden and his ilk. This is the problem. We are all individuals. Please, credit us with our individuality. The man on the street isn't suing, the firemen aren't suing, all the people that I know who are now out of work aren't suing. We're just working and waiting for things to improve.
Lisa L, New York, NY

It is only the result of America's compensation culture. Presumably US soldiers returning from Afghanistan will be suing the US Government for suffering the shock of having to shoot people. The only way out of this ridiculous state of affairs is for the US authorities to end the "no win no fee" rules that allow "victims" to pursue spurious claims without having to worry about their lawyers' fees. And, as a lawyer myself, I think this practice should be abolished in the UK as well.
Giles, UK

Americans expect companies to be held responsible. How is this a bad thing?

Franklin, Maryland, US
Many people are criticising Americans for being eager to sue. Americans expect companies or people who make mistakes to be held responsible. How is this a bad thing? I'm glad I live in a society that provides people with a way to enforce laws and common sense. It's called accountability and I wouldn't want to live in a society without it. The criticism on this page is just the usual petty nonsense and shows no understanding of American society.
Franklin, Maryland, US

I fear that I am suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. I was forced by the BBC to watch countless repeats of planes hitting the Twin Towers followed by the collapse of the Towers. Who do I sue? In thirty years of police service I saw dozens of injured and dead people, went to countless traumatic incidents and was injured myself over a dozen times. Should I sue for that? Life is full of unpleasant incidents, trying to sue for each time you are upset denies your humanity.
Barry P, UK

It would be more appropriate to sue Osama Bin Laden

Vicki, UK
It would be more appropriate to sue Osama Bin Laden... if he were available of course! The perpetrators of the hijack were obviously the ones responsible, not the airline. However, the airline may have a case to answer. American Airlines' security practices may have been standard, as I understand it, on US internal flights but those security levels were lax when compared to international flights. Without saying that I agree with this gentleman suing, I think the airlines should have learnt their lesson from Lockerbie.
Vicki, UK

This is justice gone mad. Will American people start suing the police when they are robbed or beaten because they are not doing their jobs adequately? Will people sue the American Government when they're attacked by a bear in the woods? American Airlines upheld a standard business practice and should not be punished. I should imagine that the $50m already mentioned would be better spent on developing more advanced security, thereby ensuring that such things never happen again.
Tristan Paramor, UK

As an American trial lawyer, I have to laugh at your readers' assessment of the American legal system. Our rule respecting the duties of business owners comes directly from English common law, which holds that among shopkeepers, innkeepers and common carriers, the latter owe a higher duty of care to their customers. The rationale for this rule is that travelers far from home are the most vulnerable and least able to provide for their own safety. Nonetheless, common carriers are not insurers and there is generally no duty to foresee or prevent the criminal acts of third parties. Accordingly, my guess is that these plaintiffs might be able to get a jury to agree with them and award damages against the airlines (which is the only thing you'll ever read about in the newspaper); but that any such awards will be overturned on appeal.
John Huettner, Esq., US

It is not totally unexpected that Americans are trying to capitalise on a tragedy. After all, part of the reasons behind the attacks was the propensity of capitalist America and Americans to arrogantly try to make money out of anything. It is obvious that no lesson has been learnt from the disaster, which should at least have made them think. Instead of trying to promote peace, they are simply furthering their own interests, through war and greed. God bless America.
Geoff Walsh, UK

The lawsuits are not representative of Americans as a whole

Mark Christy, US
To Geoff Walsh, UK: Stop your pompous whining. The average American is NOT a soulless, opportunistic, litigation-happy person. The post-World Trade Center lawsuits are not representative of Americans as a whole. I am also disgusted with the lawsuits, and find the mindsets of those suing to be morally repulsive. However, I am not going to condemn and judge a whole nation simply based on the greedy actions of a few. Overall, we are a nation of good people, just as most countries are. I'm getting extremely fed up with current elitist trend of scapegoating and stereotyping America for every cause and effect of the 11 September tragedy.
Mark Christy, US

While I agree that suing is the wrong thing to do, if this happened anywhere in Europe then Europeans would be doing the same thing. To sit and slander America in this way is ignorant.
Eric Hall, US

As I understand it, this particular case concerns an individual who already had a sizeable life insurance policy and therefore was not due any sort of additional financial compensation from the US Government's special fund. This is not a case of financial hardship, this is not a case injustice - this is simply a case of greed.
James Tandy, UK

I don't think the airlines can be held responsible. On the other hand, El Al, the Israeli airline, has for years had locked steel doors to the cockpit, and all the aeroplane staff are army graduates. It all depends on whether America could have foreseen hate against it rising to such a level. If so, they should have taken precautions.
Josh, UK

US citizens don't miss a chance to resort to courts, even when it concerns the silliest of reasons! Such tactics are primarily aiming at money and basically make lawyers and "victims" a few million wealthier! The purpose of justice, however, is not in all cases to profit out of a situation by means of money! It is also to understand why things happened the way they happened and try to draw some useful conclusions out of it.
Marina, Italy

The lawsuit is about accountability and responsibility

Mark, Canada
Self-righteous Europeans never miss an opportunity to slag Americans. The lawsuit is not about greed, it is about accountability and responsibility. For right or wrong, a capitalist society like the US does not believe in heavy government taxation or regulation. When negligence is discovered, you send a message by going for the place it hurts the most - the wallet.
Mark, Canada

This is such a sad display of people placing money value on human life

Anonymous, UK
This is such a sad display of people placing money value on human life. Then again it's to be expected from a country where people sue anyone and everything to make some money.
Anonymous, UK

Once again the American "Greed is good" attitude rears its ugly head. So much for the civilised West.
Michael Grieve, Scotland

There will always be those who seek to profit from misfortune

Chris, US
Thank you for reminding us that we Americans are greedy. I had almost quite forgotten. Anything may be brought in front of a court of law in the US. That doesn't mean a court will necessarily hear the case, and if it does decide to hear it, it doesn't mean that a jury will side with the plaintiff. One of the principles of our justice system is to provide access for all who have a complaint. Those who lost a family member because of the 11 September tragedy, like every citizen in every democracy, have a legal right to be made whole if they are damaged. Please do a little research before you insult my country or my fellow citizens. Surely there will always be those who seek to profit from misfortune? I don't believe that all of those who would exploit an unfortunate situation for their own gain have found their way to our shores.
Chris, US

The airlines are responsible for security. Armed men were allowed onto the planes by the airlines and so they (or their insurance company) are responsible for some of the resulting damage. I don't think you can realistically expect someone who gets paid $6.50 an hour to really care about doing a good job. If you get fired, you just find another low-paying job.
Raj, Canada

These people are forgetting the way the world came together after these terrible attacks. The sights and stories of people of all backgrounds fighting to save lives in New York City were truly memorable. Now, because someone has decided that enough time has lapsed and they can make a few bucks out of a blameless party, it turns the whole feeling of humanity on its head.
Alex, UK

We've grieved for a bit, now let's talk money

Less than a year has passed and already we see the true face of America: greed and opportunity. It seems that everything has it's price, in this case people are pricing their family members in a legal bid for compensation. It seems like this is the message; we've grieved for a bit, now let's get on with the serious business - let's talk money. Can no event pass without some American seeing it as a way of lining their pockets?

The airlines should not be sued because they themselves suffered a loss with their pilots and their planes. The only one who should be sued is the US administration for not taking action when they had every indication about the terrorist attack and had the names, addresses, etc. of all the terrorists right after and they were still handing out visas six months later to the terrorists who died in the planes!
Tamzin, France

As usual greed comes before all else. So many other people suffered as part of this and are still suffering. It is an insult to all those involved for someone to bring an action such as this.
Jon Morgan, UK

Is there anything that Americans won't deal with by suing someone?

Adam, UK
Is there anything that Americans won't deal with by suing someone? How about suing the American Government for persisting with the sort of policies that generated enough hatred against the US to lead to the attacks in the first place?
Adam, UK

Great. Yet another argument for Bin Laden to use in his branding of America as a greedy corrupt land.
Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

I say good luck to this person

Victor Romain, Russia
I am not an expert in airline passenger security. However, it is a pity that lessons were never learnt from the Pan Am disaster over Lockerbie. The compensation that the victims received was rather miserable too. I am almost certain that had tighter security been in place and the security people rather more attentive, better trained and better paid, then this terrible tragedy would not have happened. I say good luck to this person. This must never happen ever again! If there were flaws in American Airline's security, then they must pay the price of neglecting simple standards of passenger safety and ultimately, their folly!
Victor Romain, Russia

The blame for the disasters of 11 September lies wholly with the terrorists who carried out the atrocities and those who offered them support. They are now beyond the reach of the law or yet to be apprehended. As far as I can see, American Airlines were no more culpable than any other US-based carrier in its security checks at US airports, which were famously lax for internal flights.
Peter Sykes, UK

Are these people also suing FBI and/or the CIA for failing to spot something of this magnitude? American Airlines should be sued for very lax security attitude at least in internal flights.
Dimitris, Greece

Why should the airlines be held responsible for the deaths that occurred on 11 September? They were as much an innocent victim as the people who died in the World Trade Center, they too lost staff and friends and no, I don't think it is right they be sued. This should be a matter for the United States Government to address.
Rob, UK

In a word, no. It's not the airline's fault that a terrorist decided to use its plane. The firemen were doing their jobs, they knew the risks when they signed up. The city authorities were making the best of a bad situation. Sadly, instead of accepting that bad things occasionally happen and getting on with life, American culture is so obsessed with the mighty dollar that some people just think "attach blame = $$$" and start court proceedings.
Frankly that attitude makes me sick.
Paul , England

Whilst agreeing with the sentiment behind the legal action, I can't help but think that if everyone who lost a family member sued, then the total cost could be well over £100 billion. Surely American Airlines would just go into voluntary liquidation rather than let this train of events unfold?
Rodger Edwards, UK

This action will solve precisely nothing.

Trevor, UK
This action will solve precisely nothing and waste a lot of people's time. American Airlines used procedures that were common across many airlines, i.e. standard practice. I would imagine that they have learnt valuable lessons from this. We can't all live wrapped up in cotton wool and if strange people set out to do strange things there's actually very little we can do to stop them.
Trevor, UK

On 11 September it seemed like the West was united in condemnation for terror and the search for a better society. How ironic that American industries that survived the most outrageous terror attack ever should now be destroyed in the lawyers' feeding frenzy. Even Osama Bin Laden could not have dreamed that his aims would be achieved by the West itself, using its so-called justice system.
Julian Hayward, UK

It's a sad sign of todays world when after a disaster which quite frankly no-one could predict, a number of people try to make a fast buck out of it. Some may have legitimate reasons like child support, or from real injuries sustained, but others are just after the possibility of cash in hand from other people's misfortune. Once one person succeeds in making a successful lawsuit, a whole pile of others will certainly try and get a taste of the action. Shame on them!!
Dave P, UK

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories