Joe Ward

Document Type



The events of September 11, 2001 shook America to its core. The world was forever changed as the horrific tragedy unfolded on live television. Families were destroyed as loved ones were severely injured or killed, leaving spouses and children in need of aid. In response, the United States government established the September 11th Victims' Compensation Fund in an effort to provide the necessary reparations to victims of the terrorist attacks. This article will analyze the September 11th Victims' Compensation Fund (hereafter "Fund") as a way of compensating victims while preserving the financial stability of the United States economy. This Fund was created to address rising concerns in the wake of the terrorist attacks regarding the continued viability of the airline industry. Some feared civil liability for the events of September 11th could force the airlines into bankruptcy. Such an event would have been a colossal blow to the country's already unsteady economy because the airline industry is a cornerstone of the economy. As such, its collapse would undoubtedly cause many thousands of Americans to lose their jobs and shatter the public's economic confidence. Although Congress has expressly precluded individuals from "double dipping," (receiving compensation from the Fund and subsequently pursuing separate legal actions) some victims still choose to file suit. These suits attempt to place liability for the horrific events of September 11th onto readily identifiable entities with deep pockets, and away from those directly responsible: the terrorists. The Fund provides a more workable alternative to tort litigation for compensating victims' families. Congress is correct in precluding individuals from double dipping for two reasons. Firstly, there is a fundamental fairness issue, and secondly, most suits filed by the families would surely fail under a negligence theory because there is no proximate cause with which to show negligence on the part of the potential defendants. A suit against the airlines would likely fail, ultimately precluding the plaintiff from receiving any compensation from the Fund. Consequently, those individuals who seek compensation for injuries suffered on September 11, 2001 are better served by using the legislative avenue of recovery rather than the judicial system. This country has enough frivolous litigation, and it is illogical to encourage people to bring suits that are destined to fail. This is especially true when a reasonable and sufficient alternative like the Fund is available. Section I of this article focuses on the legislation resulting from the September 11th tragedy, particularly the Air Transportation and Safety Stabilization Act ("ATSSA"), which created the Fund. Section II discusses the extensive background of the Fund, including information regarding victims' eligibility, compensation requirements and amounts. Section III analyzes Mulligan v. Port Authority, a recent New York decision representing one of the first judicial decisions restricting the manner in which claims are filed with regard to the terrorist attacks. Section IV discusses the fundamental fairness problems inherent in double-dipping from the Fund. Section V explores the proximate cause issues, which will likely cause litigants to lose their suits against private entities for the terrorist attacks. Finally, Section VI discusses the reasons why the September 11th Victims' Compensation fund is a better solution for compensating victims than tort litigation.