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Terror victim's family doesn't have to pursue claim in Pakistan: Court


The family of a guest at a Marriott International Inc. hotel in Pakistan who was killed in a 2008 terrorist attack can pursue its wrongful death litigation in Maryland rather than litigating its case in Pakistan, an appellate court ruled, reversing a lower court's ruling.

Albert DiFederico, a former naval commander, was serving as a civilian contractor for the U.S. State Department in Pakistan when he was among 56 people killed in a terrorist attack on the Marriott Islamabad Hotel, a franchise hotel owned and operated by a Pakistani company, according to Wednesday's ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., in Mary DiFederico et al. v. Marriott International Inc.

The DiFederico family filed suit in June 2011. The U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., held last year that the litigation should be heard in Pakistan on the basis that it was “an available, adequate and far more convenient forum to hear the case.”

The District Court said in its ruling that although the statute of limitations might bar the family's claim in Pakistan, “it posted no bar to dismissal because the DiFedericos were responsible for a 'tactical decision' not to litigate within the statute of limitations in Pakistan,” said the appellate court.

In overturning the lower court ruling, the appellate court said the District Court “failed to point to any evidence substantiating its determination that the DiFedericos made a deliberate and tactical decision to let the statue of limitations run in Pakistan to avoid dismissal.”


The appellate court also said the family is “entitled to heightened deference in their choice of forum.” The “fear and emotional trauma involved in travel to Pakistan for a trial concerning such a politically charged event would give rise to a bevy of logistical concerns and expenses,” said the ruling.

“The DiFedericos would either have to stay in hotels, eat in the restaurants, and shop in the stores that the State Department identifies as present-day terrorist targets or incur great expense in avoiding them,” said the ruling.

“We conclude that it would be a perversion of justice to force a widow and her children to place themselves in the same risk-laden situation that led to the death of a family member,” said the three-judge panel’s unanimous ruling.

The ruling also said it “cannot be overlooked” that the family chose to sue Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott, not the hotel’s Pakistani owner. “Whatever theory they pursue requires they hold Marriott, an American-based company, accountable for the events that took place in a franchise hotel in Pakistan. … This unmistakably shifts the center of the case toward the United States,” said the court in remanding the case to the district court for further proceedings.

In another case over the issue of choice of forum, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last week ruled that a former pilot instructor for Chicago-based Boeing Corp. did not have to file his contract litigation in Saudi Arabia.