Families Of Terror Attack Victims Reach Settlement In Sept. 11 Case

Monday, September 17th 2007, 9:47 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ The families of more than a dozen Sept. 11 victims reached a settlement Monday that avoids the prospect of them having to revisit the horrors of that day during a painful and drawn-out trial.

The 14 cases were brought by families who opted not to receive payments under the Sept. 11 victims' compensation fund, which distributed about $7 billion. Those who accepted money had to agree not to sue.

But those who didn't accept payment maintained their right to sue. Those families viewed the fund as ``inherently unfair,'' and wanted to know more details about what happened on that day, said a lawyer representing 14 families.

Don Migliori, a partner with the firm Motley Rice, said the families achieved both of those goals in reaching the settlements, the terms of which were not disclosed.

Patrick Nassaney Sr., whose son died in the attacks, said they were ready ``to put this aspect of our loss behind us.''

``The feelings we are left with are mixed,'' Nassaney said. ``We learned a great deal about what happened ... but compensation does not heal our wounds.''

Migliori said he believed the case turned on a decision last week by U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein to allow several minutes of Flight 93's cockpit voice recorder to be played for the jury at an upcoming trial in Manhattan.

It included the last minutes of the passenger's lives as they struggled to take over the United Airlines plane.

Migliori said he was not allowed to describe the substance of the tape. But he did say that the last five minutes revealed the heroism of the passengers before the plane went down in a Pennsylvania field.

``There's no single more important piece of evidence of trying the Flight 93 case than the cockpit voice recorder,'' he said.

The settlement means a trial scheduled to start next Monday involving one of the 14 families will not take place. Migliori said 21 cases remain out of the original 96 that opted out of the compensation fund.

The cockpit voice recording has never been publicly released, though it was played at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui in Virginia, and relatives of the victims were permitted to hear it in private.

Flight 93, which was en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, was the only one of the four planes hijacked Sept. 11, 2001, that did not reach its intended target, believed to be in Washington.

Investigators believe the hijackers crashed the plane into a field near Shanksville, about 65 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, as passengers rushed the cockpit.