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March 04, 2015 Practice Points

Jury Finds Palestinian Authority Responsible for Terrorist Attacks

A jury in the Southern District of New York found the Palestinian Authority responsible for terrorist attacks and awarded damages of over $200 million.

By David Dobin

On February 25, 2015, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York found the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) liable for six shootings and bombings carried out in or near Jerusalem between 2002 and 2004. In the case, Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Org., No. 04 CIV. 397, the plaintiffs, made up of the estates and family members of U.S. citizens injured or killed in the attacks, filed suit in 2004, asserting claims under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2331 et seq.

The jury found that the plaintiffs had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the PLO and the PA, either acting through one of its employees or by providing support to Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, two groups designated by the State Department as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, knowingly provided material support or resources used to carry out the attacks. See Docket No. 04 CIV 00397, Jury Verdict Form, Feb. 25, 2015, ECF No. 825. The jury awarded a total of $218.5 million to the plaintiffs, which may be trebled under 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a), which provides that a successful plaintiff under the Anti-Terrorism Act “shall recover threefold the damages he or she sustains.”

In a decision dated November 19, 2014, which paved the way for a trial, the court granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Org., No. 04 CIV 397 (GBD), 2014 WL 6601023 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 19, 2014). In that decision, the court reviewed the admissible evidence against the defendants and concluded that for six out of seven of the attacks that were the subject of the lawsuit, a reasonable jury could conclude that the PA, acting through one or more employees, knowingly provided support for terrorism. In this decision, the court pointed to evidence offered by the plaintiffs that the PA continued to pay the salaries of and promote employees who admitted to being involved in terror attacks and, even after the attacks, honored those individuals’ involvement and paid money to their families. See, at *6 (noting evidence that individual suicide bomber was “recognized as a martyr and his family was given money” and that PA employee who admitted his role in organizing suicide bombing in open court “remained on the PA payroll and has been promoted four times since his conviction.”). 

The PLO and PA have stated that they will appeal the jury’s verdict.

Keywords: litigation, young lawyers, Anti-Terrorism Act, terrorism

— David Dobin, Cohen and Wolf, P.C., Bridgeport, CT

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