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VCF Claims and 9/11-Related Lawsuits: What You Need to Know

September, 2020

A hallmark feature of the original 9/11 VCF, enabled by the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act (ATSSA) in 2001, was that individuals who obtained compensation through the VCF forfeited their right to pursue civil actions against the airlines involved in the 9/11 attacks. The aim of this provision was to compensate 9/11 victims and survivors while simultaneously protecting the airline industry from being sued into bankruptcy. Although nearly 20 years have passed since the ATSSA passed, its restrictions on civil claims remain in force through subsequent enabling legislation. As a result, VCF claimants generally cannot pursue 9/11-related civil actions. For more information about the interplay between the VCF and private lawsuits, please contact a 9/11 lawyer.  

Waiver of Future Lawsuits

When VCF claimants submit their claims, they waive their right to file a civil action (or to be a party to an action) in any federal or state court for damages resulting from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 or any subsequent debris removal. This waiver is effective upon the date of the claimant’s application and applies whether or not the VCF determines that he or she is entitled to compensation. For deceased individuals, the waiver also applies to his or her personal representative, who waives his or her right to file any future civil action seeking compensation for the decedent’s death.

Exceptions to the Waiver

There are two major exceptions to the VCF’s waiver of future lawsuits: 

  1. A civil action to recover collateral source obligations, and 
  2. A civil action against a person who is “a knowing participant in any conspiracy to hijack any aircraft or commit any terrorist act.” 

The first exception allows VCF claimants to pursue civil actions to collect collateral sources of compensation for 9/11-related losses, including life insurance, pension funds, death benefit programs, or payments by government sources related to the events of 9/11. The second exception allows VCF claimants to pursue civil actions against individuals who commit or attempt to commit terrorist acts, including claimants who participate in lawsuits under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).

Pre-Claim Lawsuits 

The prohibition on civil litigation also applies to lawsuits VCF claimants initiated prior to filing a claim. VCF claimants who filed any 9/11-related lawsuit must have dismissed their case or withdrawn from the case by January 2, 2012, to be eligible to receive VCF benefits. If a claimant filed a 9/11-related lawsuit and settled any of the claims, the VCF will accept his or her claim on the following conditions: 

  1. The lawsuit commenced after December 22, 2003, and the individual released their claims prior to January 2, 2011, and 
  2. The individual dismissed any claims that were not settled on or before January 2, 2012. 

If the VCF claimant settled all of their claims, he or she may still be eligible for compensation so long as the lawsuit was commenced after December 22, 20013, and the release was tendered by January 2, 2011. 

Contact a 9/11 Lawyer for More Information 

For more information about the interplay between VCF claims and civil lawsuits, please contact a 9/11 lawyer at Pitta & Baione by using our online contact form or by calling us at 844-982-2667.