facebook linkedin twitter

Supreme Court Says Sudan Liable for $4.3 Billion in Damages for 1998 Embassy Bombings

May 18, 2020 by Dan McCue
Statue outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Sudan is liable for $4.3 billion in punitive damages for the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that left 224 people dead and injured thousands.

Despite the court’s unanimous ruling, however, it is unlikely the victims and survivors of the simultaneous truck bombings in Kenya and Dar es Salaam will ever collect the full amount.

The incidents were the first major attacks on U.S. targets by al-Qaeda.

The case before the Supreme Court in involved lawsuits filed by victims and their families against Sudan accusing the country of causing the bombings by aiding al-Qaeda and leader Osama bin Laden, who lived in Sudan in the 1990s.

The over 500 people involved in the case are mostly foreign citizens, either U.S. government employees or contractors injured in the bombings or relatives of those who died.

After more than a decade of motions, intervening legislative amendments and a trial, a lower court initially awarded the group more than $10 billion, but an appeals court threw out $4 billion of the award that was punitive damages.

In doing so, it agreed with Sudan’s argument that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act barred the awarding of punitive damages.

Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the court, which all the other members joined except for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was named to the court after the case was considered.

In vacating the appeals court’s decision, Gorsuch says Sudan essentially was asking the court to “create and apply a new rule requiring Congress to provide a super-clear statement when it wishes to authorize” the use of punitive damages.

“We decline this invitation,” Gorsuch wrote. “It’s true that punitive damages aren’t merely a form of compensation but a form of punishment, and we don’t doubt that applying new punishments to completed conduct can raise serious constitutional questions.”

If Sudan thought the retroactive punitive damages awarded in the case were unconstitutional, the better course of action would have been to challenge the law’s constitutionality head on, Gorsuch said, “not ask a court to ignore the law’s manifest direction.”

“Besides, when we fashion interpretive rules, we usually try to ensure that they are reasonably administrable, comport with linguistic usage and expectations, and supply a stable backdrop against which Congress, lower courts, and litigants may plan and act,” he wrote

“Sudan’s proposal promises more nearly the opposite: How much clearer-than-clear should we require Congress to be when authorizing the retroactive use of punitive damages?” Gorsuch continued. “Sudan doesn’t even try to say, except to assure us it knows a super-clear statement when it sees it, and can’t seem to find one here. That sounds much less like an administrable rule of law than an appeal to the eye of the beholder.”

Aside from the question of the punitive damages award, the justices refused to wade into other outstanding matters related to the case, including whether Sudan can be held liable for punitive damages for claims filed under state law.

These matters it left for the appeals court to reconsider.

Supreme Court

October 15, 2021
by Dan McCue
Supreme Court Commission Finds Crisis In Senate Confirmation Process

WASHINGTON -- A presidential panel charged with considering the pros and cons of altering the size and function of the... Read More

WASHINGTON -- A presidential panel charged with considering the pros and cons of altering the size and function of the U.S. Supreme Court is instead calling out the Senate confirmation process for justices. In draft documents released ahead of a public meeting on Friday, the Presidential... Read More

October 14, 2021
by Dan McCue
Justices Consider Whether to Reinstate Marathon Bomber’s Death Sentence

WASHINGTON -- On April 15, 2013, two Chechen-American brothers planted a pair of homemade pressure cooker bombs near the finish... Read More

WASHINGTON -- On April 15, 2013, two Chechen-American brothers planted a pair of homemade pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. At approximately 2:49 p.m. that Monday afternoon, the bombs detonated 14 seconds apart, killing three and injuring 264 others. At least... Read More

October 4, 2021
by Dan McCue
Supreme Court Holds DC Not Entitled to Vote in Congress

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a lower court ruling that denied District of Columbia residents a voting... Read More

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a lower court ruling that denied District of Columbia residents a voting member in the House of Representatives. As is their custom, the justices did not explain the rationale behind their summary disposition of the case, though they... Read More

What's Old is New Again: Justices Back at Court for New Term

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is beginning a momentous new term with a return to familiar surroundings, the mahogany... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is beginning a momentous new term with a return to familiar surroundings, the mahogany and marble courtroom that the justices abandoned more than 18 months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. Abortion, guns and religion all are on the agenda... Read More

Abortion, Guns, Religion Top a Big Supreme Court Term

WASHINGTON (AP) — The future of abortion rights is in the hands of a conservative Supreme Court that is beginning... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The future of abortion rights is in the hands of a conservative Supreme Court that is beginning a new term Monday that also includes major cases on gun rights and religion. The court's credibility with the public also could be on the line,... Read More

A 'Dangerous Cabal'? Alito Says High Court is No Such Thing

WASHINGTON (AP) - Justice Samuel Alito pushed back Thursday against criticism, including some from colleagues, that recent Supreme Court actions... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) - Justice Samuel Alito pushed back Thursday against criticism, including some from colleagues, that recent Supreme Court actions in major cases have been done hastily and in the shadows. "A dangerous cabal" improperly deciding important matters — hardly, he said. Alito, in remarks at... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top