A federal judge in Virginia has awarded $48 million in damages to family members of 17 U.S. Navy sailors killed in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. These families had won an earlier lawsuit finding Sudan legally responsible for helping Al Qaeda carry out the attack. U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar awarded $14 million in punitive damages and $34 million in damages for emotional pain and suffering to 61 of the 63 Plaintiffs. Two of the Plaintiffs in the suits, one a fiancee of one of the service members and the other a half-brother, “regrettably,” according to the judge, didn’t meet the legal requirement of being immediate family members in order to recover on a claim for solatium.
Judge Dover awarded spouses of the victims $1 million for their emotional pain and suffering, $600,000 to children, $300,000 to parents and $50,000 to siblings. Andrew C. Hall, a lawyer with Hall Lamb & Hall, told Law360:
What we wanted was their pain and suffering to be recognized. We spent years fighting for it and we’re very pleased with it.
Judge Doumar limited the punitive damages to $14 million, because Sudan is liable for more than $350 million in total damages from combined rulings in the present case and in two other cases arising out of the 2000 attack.
For those who may not remember, the Cole attack was a suicide bombing that occurred off the coast of Yemen, where the destroyer was refueling. A small boat carrying two men rammed the vessel and exploded, killing 17 sailors and injuring 270 enlisted personnel.
In April, Judge Doumar found Sudan’s providing material support and resources to Al Qaeda led to the murders of the 17 service members and entered judgment against Sudan under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Virginia. The Plaintiffs are represented by Andrew C. Hall of Hall Lamb & Hall PA, and James Cooper-Hill, Nelson M. Jones III and Kevin E. Martingayle of Stallings & Bischoff PC. They have worked hard in this litigation and should be commended for it.