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Appeals court overturns ruling that 9/11 victims can't sue Saudi Arabia

Appeals court overturns ruling that 9/11 victims can't sue Saudi Arabia

A U.S. appeals court Thursday overturned a lower court's ruling blocking victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks from suing Saudi Arabia for damages for injuries or deaths resulting from the attacks.

Plaintiffs in the case, In Re: Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001 (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia et al.), Federal Insurance Company et al. vs. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina, include “those who suffered personal injuries, the families and the representatives of those who died, insurers and property owners,” according to the ruling.

In the process of overturning the lower court's judgment that the defendants were immune from such suits under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sought to resolve previously inconsistent findings in cases brought by Sept. 11 attack victims.

While the appeals court had previously upheld the lower court's findings that such immunity existed in the Saudi Arabia litigation, in Thursday's ruling it held that its findings in a subsequent Sept. 11 case against Afghanistan that allowed the plaintiff's case to go forward represented an “extraordinary” circumstance that justified allowing consideration of the Saudi Arabia case.

The appeals court panel held that its “incorrect decision” in the first case “caused a disparity” between the plaintiffs “where none should have ever existed. We conclude that the circumstances of this case are 'extraordinary,'” justifying the reversal of the lower court's ruling, the opinion said.

The appeals court remanded the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for further proceedings.