Federal ruling signals the end of a long and bitter legal protest.

Rarely do insurance and reinsurance companies get picketed by outraged citizens, but about 75 workers demonstrated outside the German consulate in New York City in October to protest against Germany-based Allianz and other insurers not paying insurance claims in full for the destruction of the World Trade Center (WTC). US Representative Carolyn Maloney called for Allianz to settle so “we can move forward and rebuild our great city.”

A decision by a federal appeal court has affirmed the jury decisions from two trials in 2004 that determined which insurers' binder forms specified that the terrorists attack on the WTC was one or two separate events. The ruling leaves Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder for the destroyed World Trade Center buildings on land owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, with a maximum recovery of $4.6bn. The figure is $2.4bn less than originally sought, but $1.1bn more than the maximum insurers and reinsurers sought to pay.

Swiss Re, several Lloyd's insurers, along with Chubb Corporation and seven other insurers and reinsurers, used a binder that held that the two plane crashes that destroyed the site's buildings in 2001 was a single loss claim. St Paul Travelers, Allianz, Royal Insurance, Industrial Risk Insurers and five other insurance companies used a different binder and will have to pay Silverstein for two losses because there were two planes. Silverstein originally sued the insurers and reinsurers for $7bn, or twice the policy limit.

In an attempt to get the rebuilding project jump started, the Port Authority reworked the lease with Silverstein. He will receive 56.5% of the remaining $2.5bn, and the authority gets the remainder. He will use the funds to build three skyscrapers and the state agency will use what is left to build the freedom tower, one other tower and a retail complex at the site.