WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge vacated a default judgment filed against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in regard to a wrongful death suit filed in the wake of the Feb. 16, 2002 suicide bombing in the West Bank that killed two American teens at a pizzeria.
The plaintiffs in the case, family members of the two teens killed, claimed PLO member Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed credit for the bombing and were assisted by the PLO.
In 2005, the court denied the Palestinian organizations’ motion to dismiss and the groups later stated at a status conference that they only intended to litigate the question of jurisdiction of the case, but never filed an appeal to do so. Subsequently the plaintiffs obtained a default judgment against them.
“Indeed, it seems overwhelmingly clear that defendants’ default in this case was willful. I am not persuaded in the least bit by defendants’ arguments that their default was a result of regional turmoil, the lack of an institutional decision-making mechanism, or defendants’ inability to understand the Court’s jurisdiction,” stated U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in his ruling vacating the default. “Despite defendants’ willful default, however, this Court is now convinced that they are truly committed to litigating this matter.
The original complaint against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority also listed the Syrian Arab Republic and various Syrian entities as defendants, though the plaintiffs dismissed their case against Syria and re-filed a related case against the country.