By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday approved a $135 million settlement between American Airlines Group Inc and Cantor Fitzgerald over business and property losses suffered by the financial services company in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, in which 658 of Cantor's employees were killed.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said the agreement, which averts a trial that had been scheduled to begin this month, was "fair and reasonable" at a brief court hearing.
Under the settlement, American's insurers will pay Cantor $135 million, minus approximately $2.5 million from two insurers that are insolvent and cannot cover their share.
The settlement ends one of the last remaining pieces of litigation stemming from the 2001 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.
Cantor lost almost two-thirds of its 1,000 New York employees after American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower of the World Trade Center.
In the lawsuit, originally filed in 2004, Cantor accused American Airlines of negligence for failing to prevent hijackers from boarding the flight at Logan International Airport in Boston. At one point, the company had sought more than $1 billion in damages, but the sum was later reduced to between $464 million and $484 million.
American Airlines had said in defending the case that it had no way to foresee the attacks.
The terms of the settlement were first disclosed in December. In a statement at that time, Cantor's chief executive officer, Howard Lutnick, said, "For us, there is no way to describe this compromise with inapt words like ordinary, fair or reasonable. All we can say is that the legal formality of this matter is over."
American Airlines said in a statement that it had defended itself in litigation brought by property owners "who allege that American should have done what the government could not do - prevent the terrorist attacks." It said it would "forever honor the memory" of the victims and heroes of September 11.
The cases are Cantor Fitzgerald & Co et al v. American Airlines Inc et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 04-07318; and In re: September 11 Property Damages and Business Loss Litigation in the same court, No. 21-mc-00101.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Leslie Adler)