In October 2000, two suicide bombers in a boat detonated explosives alongside the USS Cole as it refueled, killing 17 sailors and wounding many more. After al-Qaeda claimed responsibility, it was alleged that the Sudanese government provided the support that allowed the terrorist organization to carry out the attack, leading the U.S. to designate Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism. Now, nearly 20 years after the attack, the victims and their families see recompense for this tragedy. Sudan announced last week that it will pay $70 million to the families of those who were killed as well as 15 injured sailors and two spouses. Although Sudan denies involvement in the attack or any wrongdoing, the settlement is an effort of Sudan’s to remove the country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The settlement for the USS Cole attack is one in a growing line of cases that result in Americans getting justice from foreign entities after an act of terrorism. Milestone has worked with survivors and victims’ families impacted by different acts of terrorism that have occurred over the past few decades. Our team came to the assistance of victims of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania when, 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. Milestone’s founder, John Bair, traveled to Africa to educate those who were receiving money from this fund, and to help them plan how to use it responsibly and think long-term. Milestone has also provided services to the victims and their families of the 1983 Bombing of U.S. & French Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
After September 11th, 2001, Bairhelped pass a law that allows for the creation of pro bono structured settlements in connection with the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. In 2013 he lobbied for an amendment to expand the scope of “terrorism” to apply to all acts of terrorism in order 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.
We know that with a big litigation win like this comes great responsibility at settlement time. When multiple plaintiffs and attorneys are involved, a variety of complexities can arise when settlement talks begin. A qualified settlement fund (QSF) is a helpful tool in post-settlement planning in situations like this, as it extends the time for attorneys to address the decisions involved in the disbursement of funds. Plaintiffs then have extra time to receive comprehensive counseling to plan for their financial recovery, and plaintiffs’ attorneys can get their fees almost as soon as the defendants make their payment to the fund — even if their clients are still in the settlement planning phase. Should any attorney representing the USS Cole victims and families want to consider a QSF, our team would be happy to explain how it works. Feel free to give us a call for a no-obligation chat.
Our team commends the tireless work of the USS Cole victims’ attorneys in attaining this landmark accomplishment. While nothing can change what happened in 2000, this settlement will hopefully bring the families some feeling of peace in moving forward.
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).