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Monday, February 26, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Hamas Victims to Get More After Legal Change

(CN) - Iran must pay $40 million to the family of a 14-year-old girl killed in a triple-suicide bombing carried out by Hamas in downtown Jerusalem, a federal judge ruled.

On Sept. 4, 1997, three suicide bombers entered a mall in downtown Jerusalem, Israel, and detonated bombs filled with nails, glass shards and chemical poisons.

The explosion wounded nearly 200 people, and killed five, including 14-year-old Yael Botvin, who was a U.S. citizen. Hamas, the Palestinian political party that now governs the Gaza Strip, later claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack.

Yael's mother, Julie Goldberg-Botvin, and sisters, Tamar and Michal Botvin, then filed a federal complaint in Washington, D.C., against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iran Ministry of Information and Security and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Chief U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth awarded Yael's family $1.7 million for wrongful death last year, finding that Iran conclusively aided Hamas conduct terrorist attacks in general, and this attack in particular.

At that time, however, Israeli law did not provide for awards of punitive or solatium damages.

Lamberth said he hoped the family would take "some measure of solace" in the award that was available, and noted it was a sad inconsistency that other victims of the same bombing won millions under U.S. law.

Shortly after the verdict, the family filed a lawsuit under the updated state-sponsored terrorism provision, which grants U.S. courts original jurisdiction over suits against foreign states.

Given a second chance to compensate the Yael's family for their loss, Lamberth awarded an additional $10 million in compensatory damages and $30.89 million in punitive damages.

"Plaintiffs have proved that Iran's commission of acts of extrajudicial killing and its provision of material support and resources for such killing were reasonably certain to, and indeed intended to, cause injury to plaintiff," he wrote. "Thus, as a general matter, damages are appropriate."

To determine punitive damages, Lamberth applied the same multiplier U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina used in Campuzano v. Islamic Republic of Iran to award eight plaintiffs injured in the same bombing that killed Yael $300 million.

"In Campuzano, Judge Urbina felt that for every $1.00 awarded in compensatory damages to the victims of the attack, the defendants should be forced to pay punitive damages of $2.64," Lamberth noted.

"The court will apply the same ratio here," he added.

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