Federal Judge: 9/11 litigation against Saudi Arabia may proceed

Litigation filed by 9/11 victims, survivors and families survived a motion to dismiss from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on March 28, 2018 as the federal judge overseeing the case found that plaintiffs’ allegations met required standards for the case to move forward under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). In addition to denying the defense’s motion, U.S. District Judge George Daniels for the Southern District of New York also granted a plaintiffs’ request seeking to conduct targeted jurisdictional discovery.

“This ruling is the huge step forward we’ve been waiting for. The Court’s decision negates Saudi Arabia’s claim that the 9/11 Commission exonerated it for its role in the terrorist attacks,” said Jodi Westbrook Flowers, Motley Rice attorney for the more than 6,600 families members and survivors who comprise the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism. “The victims have toiled for more than 15 years to see to it that Saudi Arabia is held accountable. This ruling reaffirms that their work, and the enactment of JASTA, were not in vain.”

Plaintiffs, represented by Motley Rice and co-counsel, allege that at least two Saudi agents, Thumairy and Bayoumi, provided material support to the hijackers ahead of the 9/11 attacks. By allowing discovery to commence, the Court found that the plaintiffs offered a reasonable basis for Saudi Arabia to be held accountable, and enabled plaintiffs to seek answers as to what extent those Saudi agents acted under the direction of more senior Saudi officials.   

JASTA became law in 2016 and allows foreign sponsors of terrorist attacks in the U.S. to be held accountable in U.S. civil courts, abolishing foreign governments’ immunity for their role in supporting terror attacks on U.S. soil. 

Read the decision.

In August 2002, Motley Rice filed the first civil action for 500 survivors and family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks. Since this action—Thomas Burnett Sr. et al v Al Baraka Banking and Investment, et al—was filed, the number of plaintiffs has grown to include more than 6,600 survivors and family members, who became organized under the title 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism to support the JASTA legislation. The action has been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York as In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, 03 MDL 1570. The litigation strives to hold responsible the individuals, banks, corporations and purported charities historically implicated in sponsoring al Qaeda’s terrorist activities. The suit is based on the principles of safety and freedom from terrorism and is designed to deter and strip resources from those individuals and entities that fund terrorism, and ultimately deprive them of the means to sponsor or otherwise promote future acts of terror.

The cases are In re Thomas E. Burnett, Sr., et al. v. Al Baraka Investment & Development Corp., et al., (Case No. 03-CV-9849) and In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, 03 MDL 1570.