With the recent anniversary of 9/11, all of us at Milestone, like our fellow Americans, have been thinking about how much the victims, their families, and our country lost in just a few minutes on what would have been a regular day. Seeing how our trial attorneys immediately went to work with legislators to lend a hand makes us proud to be part of the American civil justice community.
The day after 9/11, the American Association for Justice began lobbying for the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which allowed eligible claimants to receive full tort-type damages without proof of liability or causation or a cap on damages or legal fees. They were successful. Prompt payment from the fund was guaranteed. AAJ then launched Trial Lawyers Care on September 24, 2001. We at Milestone lent our services along with them. We worked with the association and successfully lobbied for a law that allowed for the pro bono creation of structured settlements in connection with the Victim Compensation Fund.
Sadly, our nation mourned the loss of terrorism victims on multiple occasions before 9/11. In 1983, 241 U.S. servicemen were killed and another 138 Americans were injured in the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. It was the deadliest single terrorist act against U.S. citizens prior to 9/11. Some of the survivors and families of those killed in Beirut filed claims against Iran for its state-sponsored terrorism. A ruling declared that Iran would be held responsible for more than $813 billion in damages to those hurt by the event.
The same year, Congress passed a law that makes it easier for the families of terrorism victims to recover compensation from the sponsors of such violence. Then, in a landmark decision, the Supreme Court declared that nearly $2 billion in Iranian frozen assets would be available for disbursements. As a settlement planning firm led by compassion and strong principals, Milestone helped the survivors and families of the victims as they planned for their financial recoveries. Our firm helped take the guesswork out of settlement planning, and guided them through an extremely difficult transition toward financial security.
We lobbied for an amendment to the original law that expanded the scope of “terrorism” to apply to all acts of terrorism, so as to include the families in the Bank Markazi litigation, who had obtained judgments against Iran for its role the Beirut barracks bombings and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing. In 2015, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to allow insurers to waive commission fees associated with the purchase of annuity insurance for families affected by any terrorist attack on the U.S., expanding on the existing law which only allowed a waiver for families affected by the 9/11 attacks.
Milestone also came to the assistance of victims and families of victims of the 1998 United States embassy bombing in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. In this terrorist attack for which al Qaeda claimed responsibility, 11 individuals were killed and 85 were wounded. In 2017, the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (USVSST) awarded Tanzanian and American families in Tanzania with settlement monies in attempt to offer some sort of justice. John Bair from Milestone traveled to Africa to educate those who were receiving money from this fund, and to help them plan how to use it most responsibly and to think long-term. The U.S. Department of Justice established the USVSST in order to compensate U.S. victims of international acts of terrorism. These individuals include the Iran hostages held from 1979 to 1981 and their families, victims of the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, victims of the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and several other international terrorist incidents.
We believe that it is our duty to lend a hand to those who face tragedy suddenly, and we are honored to have the opportunity to help these victims and their families. Our team will continue to use our skills and expertise to aid the civil justice community in protecting victims and their families as best it can.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).