Embassy Bombing Victims Take Case to High Court

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether victims of twin U.S. embassy bombings are entitled to punitive damages under a law adopted six years after the attacks.

Monicah Opati is the lead petitioner in the underlying case, which ended in an initial $10.2 billion judgment against Sudan for harboring al-Qaida operatives who carried out the simultaneous truck bombings in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, on Aug. 7, 1998.

The D.C. Circuit later shaved more than $4.3 billion in punitive damages off that award.

Per its custom the U.S. Supreme Court did not issue any comment Friday in taking up Opati’s case. Her petition asks whether the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act applies retroactively, thereby permitting recovery of punitive damages against foreign states for terrorist activities that predate the current version of the law.

Sudan had previously been a no-show at district court proceedings on the case, defending its absence by saying it was hampered by natural disasters and civil wars — and was not informed enough on the U.S. legal system to realize the consequences of absence.

But the circuit court rejected the excuses and said it could not find evidence for a military appropriations bill justifying the punitive damages — the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act — should be applied retroactively.

Opati, one of many plaintiffs in a 15-case consolidation, is represented by the Miller Law Firm of Orange, Virginia, and by the Perles Law Firm of Washington. Neither immediately responded to requests for comment. 

In separate petitions to the high court, Sudan was represented by White & Case in Washington. The firm declined to comment on the high court’s decision to hear the case, citing pending litigation. 

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