(CN) - Iran and Sudan owe $75 million to the family of a U.S. sailor killed in the 2000 al-Qaida bombing of the USS Cole, a federal judge ruled.
The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole had been moored for about two and a half hours near the mouth of Yemen's harbor, Port of Aden, to refuel on the morning of Oct. 12, 2000, when a small, white boat with fire-red trim headed toward it "fast and hard" from the direction of the city, according to the ruling.
A two-man crew aboard the boat smiled and waved as they slowed and pulled up next to the Cole, where some of the crew were just sitting down for lunch.
Within seconds, the boat exploded, ripping a 32-by-36-foot hole in the Cole's port side to flood the main engine, auxiliary machine and dry-provisions rooms, and destroy several others.
Kevin Rux, a first-class electronic warfare technician, was among 17 Navy sailors who died in the explosion and its aftereffects. Dozens more sustained lacerations, broken bones, or serious burns to their faces, hands and arms.
His mother and four brothers brought a complaint for emotional distress under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act in 2010.
The court entered defaults against Iran and the Sudan in 2012, but the family reported that they have been unable to effectuate service of process against Syria as of March 28, 2013.
At a hearing last year on liability and damages, the court took notice of the evidence from older Cole-related cases
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras awarded the family default judgment against Iran and the Sudan on Tuesday, finding that "the defendants enabled Bin Laden and al-Qaida to perpetrate the attack on the Cole, thereby causing Kevin's death and the resulting mental anguish, bereavement, and grief of his immediate family members, the plaintiffs."
All defendants are jointly and severally liable for all damages, the ruling states.
"This conspiracy can be traced back at least to 1991, when Iran and Sudan decided to form a 'tripartite front' against the United States and Israel, agreeing to collaborate both 'politically and militarily,'" Contreras wrote.
The ruling additionall states that "Sudan's support was 'indispensable' in enabling al-Qaida to acquire expertise and contacts for carrying out the Cole bombing."
Kevin's mother is entitled to $25 million, while each of his brothers should get $12.5 million, for a total family award of $75 million in solatium and punitive damages.
"Kevin was the center of his family," Contreras wrote. "His unexpected death was devastating to his mother and brothers. Furthermore, the violent nature in which he died further exacerbated their grief and mental suffering, with several of his family members tortured by the fact that he may have suffered before he died. Finally, the medical evidence shows that each plaintiff experienced extraordinarily severe pain and suffering following Kevin's death."
Olivia Rux, Kevin's widow, led 59 surviving family members in a suit against Sudan in July 2004, claiming that the republic gave Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida material support to attack the Cole.
The plaintiffs won more than $7.9 million in "economic losses" in March 2007, but U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar in Washington, D.C., had found that U.S. law does not offer a remedy for the survivors' psychological and emotional losses.
That changed in 2008 when Congress amended the National Defense Authorization Act to allow those suing state sponsors of terrorism to seek punitive damages, and to recover for pain and suffering.
Though the relatives filed a new complaint in 2010, Judge Doumar ruled against them after finding that the case was filed too long after the 2004 suit to be a "related action."
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