Scout's 9/11 death headed for civil trial

NEW YORK -- A judge set a June trial date for the first -- and possibly only -- civil wrongful death trial to result from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks after years of litigation that produced settlements in every other case.

The lawsuit was filed by the family of Mark Bavis, a West Newton, Mass., scout for the Los Angeles Kings hockey team who was aboard United Flight 175 when it struck the World Trade Center. The lawsuit blames the airline and several other firms for security failures that led to the attacks.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein on Wednesday set June 13 as the date to begin the trial. The Bavis' lawyer, Donald Migliori, said outside court in Manhattan that the family was grateful they would get to fully air their claims.

"The Bavis family feels very strongly that the information about how checkpoint security failed wholesale on Sept. 11 needs to be brought out into the public light," Migliori said.

He said the family, which includes the victim's twin brother, his mother and other siblings, has the support of many other families who had brought 95 lawsuits on behalf of 96 victims. All other lawsuits were settled.

The airline and several security companies sued by the family are expected to argue that they properly followed government security directives issued prior to the attacks. A lawyer for the defendants declined to comment after the hearing.

The judge said United Airlines and the security companies would likely try to show a jury that it followed all security rules and that lawyers for the Bavis family will try to show the defendants "made too many practical decisions in the interests of moving people along."

Hellerstein said the trial was expected to end by July 22. He refused a request by some lawyers to combine the trial with the claims of companies that blamed the same airline industry defendants for property damage. The judge predicted that those lawsuits will likely settle.

"My feeling is that there will only be one trial," he said.

Hellerstein also directed lawyers to prepare a 5- to 10-minute narrative of what happened on Sept. 11 that will be read to jurors so historians and other experts do not need to be called as witnesses. He said the narrative did not need to include the motivations of the hijackers because that was not part of the trial.

Migliori said lawyers for the Bavis family had obtained 200 depositions related to airport checkpoint security, and they needed to be made public.

"It's such a thoroughly investigated issue. There's no way everybody doesn't benefit from it," he said.

He said the family's case was "premised on the idea that 19 for 19 hijackers got through these checkpoints and carried out a concerted hijacking that should have been prevented."

Migliori said some of the items that improperly made it onto hijacked planes that day included Mace, pepper spray, boxcutters and a Leatherman utility tool.

Ninety-seven percent of the relatives of those killed in planes that hit the World Trade Center or the Pentagon on Sept. 11 chose to receive payments from a special fund that Congress established. It distributed more than $7 billion to more than 5,000 survivors.