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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

When Two Planes Fly Into Two Buildings, Is It One Occurrence, or Two?

Aired January 22, 2002 - 07:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Time now for our weekly segment we call Homefronts. The companies insuring the World Trade Center had all bases covered, or so they thought. They were insured for losses in the billions per occurrence. But the events of 9-11 have raised the stakes. The question is, when two planes fly into two buildings 18 minutes apart, is it one occurrence or two? The answer will determine the outcome of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit.

Joining us now with more on this story, "Newsweek" Columnist Steven Brill. Welcome back.

STEVEN BRILL, "NEWSWEEK" COLUMNIST: Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: What is this mean?

BRILL: What it means is that these people who are were running multi-billion dollar business venture didn't do a very good job in, you know, putting the documents together at a (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And what happens is you end up having something that seems like a script from "L.A. Law" or "The Practice". It seems like a, you know, a law school 101 exam question. Is this one or two occurrences?

There are all kinds of documents. The documents that we used in this thing have handwriting on them, they never really came to what's called a meeting of the minds in the law. And the reason this is important -- I mean, it's a fun legal question -- but the reason it's important is that until they decide who gets what money, how much money -- and there are billions of dollars at stake -- nothing can be built at the World Trade Center.

You know, we keep reading all these stories about is it going to be...

ZAHN: A memorial...

BRILL: A memorial, four 50-story buildings, towers, what's it going to be? It's going to be nothing until they -- until they iron this out. And, typically, if you have a multi-billion dollar case with, you know, zillions of corporate lawyers and depositions and all that stuff, it takes three years, five years or ten years to solve this. And, you know, this is not the way we want...

ZAHN: And, meanwhile, the port authority would like revenue being generated from somewhere on that site.

BRILL: Meanwhile, what we'd all like is not to have, you know, just a scar down there. Whether it's a memorial or something, you know, someone's going to have to build something. And this has to be resolved before they can do it.

ZAHN: Let's review some of the arguments that Larry Silverstein (ph) is making He is the man, of course, who had the lease on the World Trade Center. And I'm going to put up on the screen what he has argued in court. He has said that, "All experts agree that the collapses of the two towers were independently caused by two separate plane crashes, which caused two separate fires and that the two collapses were independent of each other."

But, a lawyer for the insurance company is arguing the exact opposite. That one plane alone was enough to bring down the two towers because of the construction of the buildings.

BRILL: That's one argument. That's one argument. That's a technical argument, and I think that the insurance company's not going to win that one. I think that most of the experts and people I've talked to think that it took a second plane hitting the second building for the second building to come down.

The more interesting argument is, is a conspiracy, is a plot -- in this case, by the terrorists -- to attack the Trade Center one event? After all, the insurance for the Trade Center talked about insuring the Trade Center, not insuring this building versus that building. So is it one event?

If someone breaks into your car and they break the window of your car and then they take the radio out of your car, it is one event that they broke the window and they took the radio.

ZAHN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to take the radio.

BRILL: It's still one event if one person breaks the window and his friend takes the radio. It's still usually one event. But all of that depends on these documents, which have handwriting all over them. There was one form used by one insurance company; there was another form used by another insurance company. There are 10 different insurance companies in this thing.

ZAHN: Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

BRILL: Well, it's easy to say it was sloppy, but, you know, the Silverstein people only took over the Trade Center in mid July, and the custom in the insurance industry is that you write something called a binder, which is just this little document of a couple of pages. And then you back and you take the 2 or 300-page document and you finish it in six months or a year. They didn't have six months or a year.

ZAHN: So the bottom line is, that...

(CROSS TALK) BRILL: The bottom line is nothing is going to get built until they figure -- they figure this out.

ZAHN: Well, yeah, exactly. All right. Steven Brill, it's always good to have you here for our Homefronts...

BRILL: Thank you.

ZAHN: ... usually on Mondays, but because of the holiday we moved it to Tuesday this week.

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