If you are a part of our Legal Examiner community, you’ve probably read about our work to help families obtain and plan for compensation when their loved ones have been killed or injured by terrorism overseas. Recently, we assisted people who were impacted by the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing by al Qaeda in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed 11 individuals and wounded 85. Although we were able to help educate those who were receiving money from the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (USVSST) and help them plan for their future, the families unfortunately still face some hurdles in attaining recompense for their devastating losses.
One issue in particular involves a 2017 court ruling that blocked a group of plaintiffs — which includes people injured and relatives of people killed in the attack in Tanzania and another attack by al Qaeda in Kenya — from collecting punitive damages from Sudan that they were initially awarded by a federal judge. The judge found Sudan liable for backing al Qaeda at the time of these attacks, and awarded the plaintiffs $10.2 billion, including $4.3 billion in punitive damages. In 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that those punitive damages could not be applied retroactively. Thankfully, that ruling might be changing, and more compensation could be coming to the victims.
After about an hour of oral arguments this week, eight U.S. Supreme Court justices showed promise that the Court could reinstate the $4.3 billion in punitive damages against Sudan originally awarded in the lawsuits stemming from the two embassy bombings. This comes on the heels of the $70 million settlement Sudan offered just last week to victims of the USS Cole terrorist attack that took place in October 2000. The USS Cole settlement is an attempt of Sudan’s to have their country removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. At Milestone, we’ll be closely following this story, hoping that the families still have a chance to receive the full compensation they are due.
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).