Few 9/11 Families Still Suing The Airlines

The only way Julie Shontere sees and hears her daughter Angie Houtz anymore is by playing a videotape over and over again, reports CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras.

"I think we need to focus on our community, getting out and impacting people one by one," Houtz says on a video.

Angie Houtz was active in her church and worked at the Pentagon in Naval Intelligence, investigating terrorist attacks.

"If a mother was to pick a place to work, I would have thought that the middle ring in the Pentagon would have been one of the safest places in America," Shontere said.

But on September 11, 2001, Houtz was among the 125 people killed when an American Airlines flight exploded into the pentagon, and her mother is determined to hold the airlines and airline security firms responsible.

"I do it to honor Angie," Shontere said. "She was part of the intelligence community, and almost the irony that that's what took her life has prompted me to pursue answers in the name of what I believe she would want to know."

Shontere is one of a handful of victim's families who opted not to accept compensation from a fund set up by the government, the Victim's Compensation Fund, or VCF. But to receive that money, they had to had to agree not to sue the airlines.

"The Victims Compensation Fund wasn't looking for answers," Shontere said. "It wasn't looking for accountability. What it did is it effectively bailed the airlines out, with taxpayer's money. And I wasn't comfortable with that."

Originally 95 families decided to sue. So far half have settled, leaving only 41 still going to court. The Shonteres' attorney claims the suit will reveal new evidence of airline negligence.

"The terrorists took the weakest link and took advantage of it," said Keith Franz, an attorney at Azrael, Gann and Franz. "But if that link had been strengthened before 911 then maybe this entire event would have been avoided."

American Airlines declined an interview but offered a statement, saying: "... we empathize with all families who lost loved ones ... 98 percent of the cases have been settled privately or through the VCF. American is committed to continue working with the families toward settlement."

When Assuras asked how much she thought about settling, Shontere replied, "My intention is to get answers and settling doesn't answer those questions."

"You think Angie would have wanted you to take this course?" Assuras asked.

"She cared so much about making things better," Shontere replied. "The answers would have been necessary for Angie."

Trials start in September and the Shonteres expect to be third in line.
  • CBSNews

Comments

Follow Us

On Twitter