WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge has awarded nearly $209 million in damages to a family injured in a 2003 Hamas suicide bombing of a bus in Israel.
The July 27 opinion, issued by U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, outlines the reasoning behind the award amount, based on a review of evidence from a court-appointed special master.
In the 11-page ruling, Cooper outlined the injuries sustained by Ora Cohen, her five children – Meirav, Shira, Daniel, Orly and Elchanan – and her then-husband Shalom.
In the immediate wake of the bombing, Ora waited for hours to find out her family had survived the attack.
Cooper said Ora had been “the lifeblood” of her family since the bombing nearly 14 years ago, and found the scope of her emotional injury unique.
“She has shuttled her five children to appointments with doctors and therapists, has sat with them in hospitals, and has cared for them as they recovered from successive rounds of surgeries,” the 11-page ruling states. “She has labored almost singlehandedly, consistently placing her own recovery behind that of her children,” Cooper wrote.
Even though Ora’s injuries – a broken nose, damage to her eardrum and an injured neck – were less severe than other victims of terrorism, Cooper found her devotion to the recovery of her children entitled her to a baseline award of $5 million for pain and suffering.
Her daughter Shira, who was permanently disfigured and lost her vision, received more.
“The psychological impact of such an injury on a young girl, the ongoing need for treatment, and the permanence of the impairment warrant an upward deviation of $2 million, for a total award of $7 million,” Cooper ruled.
Cooper awarded $3 million to three of the other children who only suffered shrapnel injuries, and $750,000 to Elchanan. Although he was a baby at the time and has no memory of the attack, Cooper found he had still suffered.
“His hip was broken by the blast and he spent hours buried under bodies waiting to be rescued,” Cooper wrote.
Earlier this year, the court entered default judgment under the state sponsor of terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act against Iran, the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, finding them liable for their documented support and funding of Hamas terrorist activities.
The court also awarded the family solatium damages, and found that all conditions were met to award punitive damages.
“As to the first factor, the targeted bombing of a bus full of innocent civilians — resulting in 23 fatalities and over a hundred injured – was a truly heinous and unconscionable act,” Cooper wrote.
The family had asked for $500 million but Cooper reduced that to $139 million, finding that large punitive awards are less justified when defendants fund attacks rather than carry out them out. Noting that punitive damages are meant to deter, Cooper also said that no evidence exists that high award amounts have successfully deterred the Iranian defendants.