An Appellate Division in Manhattan delivered a significant if incomplete victory Tuesday to a Durango woman who nearly died in the parking garage during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
In 2009, a jury awarded Linda McLaughlin $5.4 after finding the Port Authority liable for the debilitating, lifelong brain injuries suffered as a result of nearly dying in the debris of an explosion caused by a truck bomb that entered the center’s garage.
The Port Authority appealed the verdict in 2011, and lost, but still refused to pay. It appealed again.
On Tuesday, the Appellate Division in Manhattan quashed the Port Authority’s latest attempt to appeal.
McLaughlin, who was interviewed by phone at home Wednesday afternoon, said she had learned just moments before from her lawyers that the Port Authority had filed papers appealing the judgment.
At the time of the bombing, McLaughlin, who is now 71, was living in New York and working for Deloitte & Touche, a major accounting firm. She suffered severe injuries in the parking garage below the World Trade Center when terrorists took advantage of the building’s lax security and detonated a car bomb on Feb. 26, 1993. The explosion killed six people and wounded more than 1,000.
Firefighters found McLaughlin buried in debris at 3 p.m. – about three hours after the bomb exploded. Doctors treated her head wound. But other wounds proved permanent, including lung scarring and severe, ongoing brain damage that has prevented McLaughlin from having a normal job.
McLaughlin said litigating against a giant government institution had proved exhausting and draining.
“It’s painful. I mean the physical damage I sustained is permanent. I’ve worked very hard with staying healthy, but there are things wrong with me that will never be cured as a result of this bombing,” she said.
McLaughlin’s husband, Jim McLaughlin, spoke to The Durango Herald about an hour before the couple learned that the Port Authority was indeed filing another appeal, after the court had ordered the Port Authority to pay them $5.4 million dollars within the next five working days.
Just hours after prevailing in court, when it came to seeing a multi-million dollar check, he wasn’t holding his breath.
“We’re supposed to collect. We thought that last time, too. But it’s not over yet – not until the money is in our bank account,” Jim McLaughlin said.
He said the Port Authority’s legal strategy of making the process as long, painstaking and demoralizing as possible was taking a toll on him and his wife.
“Linda’s the same as me. We’re just waiting to see what happens. It’s very stressful,” he said.
Linda McLaughlin said while it is difficult litigating against a giant, she was determined not to give up hope.
“It’s only been 22 years now. They’ve tried to wear me down for so long, and I just hang in there. I’m not happy – but I’m not surprised they’re appealing again. The Port Authority is a very unreasonable branch of government, and they have fought this tooth and nail since the very beginning,” she said.
“We’ll see what happens. I have faith. I prayed when I was trapped in the garage many years ago, and God heard me. And I will continue praying for victory. But I am not counting my money any time soon because I may never get it,” she said.