In an opinion last week, Judge Hellerstein granted summary judgment to United Airlines in a suit arising from the collapse of World Trade Center 7, which was struck by debris from one of the twin towers on September 11, 2001. He ruled United owed no duty of care to the plaintiffs:
In deciding whether such a duty of care should be found, I must heed the New York Court of Appeals’ caution regarding the extension of liability to defendants for their failure to control the conduct of others in light of the potential for unfairness and potentially limitless liability. Hamilton, 96 N.Y.2d at 232-33. As Chief Judge Cardozo famously wrote, “[t]he risk reasonably to be perceived defines the duty to be obeyed, and risk imports relation; it is risk to another or to others within the range of apprehension.” Palsgraf, 248 N.Y. at 344. It was not within United’s range of apprehension that terrorists would slip through the PWM security screening checkpoint, fly to Logan, proceed through another air carrier’s security screening and board that air carrier’s flight, hijack the flight and crash it into 1 World Trade Center, let alone that 1 World Trade Center would therefore collapse and cause Tower 7 to collapse.