First Sept. 11 Wrongful Death Suit Filed; Congress Passes Victims Relief Bill

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

( - In what is considered to be the first wrongful death suit stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks, the widow of a passenger who perished on the hijacked United Airlines plane that flew into the World Trade Center is suing the airline.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, blames the airline for breaching its duty to care for the safety of the passengers of Flight 175.

Ellen Mariani of New Hampshire, whose husband Louis was killed in the attack, is seeking unspecified damages.

The suit says Louis suffered severe fright and terror before dying in the crash.

Meanwhile, Congress Thursday passed broad tax relief for the families of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The bill waives victims' income taxes for the year of death and the following year and shields the first $3 million in assets from both federal and state estate tax and $8.5 million from federal estate tax only in 2001.

"As we close for this holiday season, the House and Senate want this to be a gesture, small though it may be, to the victims of Sept. 11," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas.

Democrats were pushing for payroll tax relief for victims' families whose salaries were so low that they weren't required to pay income taxes.

Instead, under the deal House Republicans offered a choice of a $10,000 check or the income tax waiver, whichever is greater, congressional aides said.

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