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Posted on Tue, Sep. 23, 2003

Sept. 11 widow sues the President


Ellen Mariani's husband was aboard Flight 175. She says government officials were negligent.



Inquirer Staff Writer

A New Hampshire woman whose husband died in one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center sued President Bush and other government officials yesterday, contending their negligence of airport security resulted in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The wrongful death lawsuit by Ellen Mariani, whose husband, Louis Neil Mariani, was a passenger in the plane that hit the south tower, was described by her lawyer as part of her campaign to "get to the truth of what happened on Sept. 11."

"We just don't believe the federal government has been honest with us," said Philip J. Berg, a Lafayette Hill lawyer, Democratic activist and former gubernatorial candidate.

In December 2001, Mariani filed one of the first Sept. 11-related lawsuits, an action in federal court in Manhattan against United Airlines maintaining that United's poor security led to the hijacking of Flight 175 shortly after it took off from Boston's Logan International Airport.

Since then, Mariani has become known as an outspoken critic of efforts to limit discovery of the causes of the Sept. 11 hijackings, often to the consternation of her lawyers, government officials and some survivors.

Though Louis Neil Mariani, 58, a retired sales coordinator for H.P. Hood, died without life insurance and left little money, his wife has decided to forgo the money of the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund.

The suit seeks unspecified money damages.

"Her position is that they are not going to buy her out," Berg said.

Within weeks of 9/11, Congress created the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, which aids family members of the people who died in the terrorist attacks. Payments to the families of victims have ranged from $250,000 to $6.6 million, with the average award being $1.6 million. Awards are primarily based on a victim's age, earnings potential and family status.

Berg said Mariani also has retained him to take over her suit against United Airlines in New York, pending before U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.

"I think she felt her prior attorneys were trying to sell her short," Berg said, adding that Mariani was referred to him by a local radio talk-show host who was interviewing her.

In addition to President Bush, Mariani's lawsuit also names Vice President Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Council on Foreign Relations.


Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2658 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com.

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