“U.S. Companies May Be on Hook for Libyan Terrorism”

by Walter Olson on May 5, 2008

It’s like magic, we’ll just make Big Business pay:

Washington, D.C., lawyer Thomas Fay has spent years hounding the Libyan government for money on behalf of victims of terrorist attacks. Now he’s hoping to collect — from American companies.

Fay has sent letters to 13 brand-name corporations, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, notifying them that if he wins his case against Libya, he’ll be coming after them. He has even sent one to White & Case, the prominent law firm that recently signed on to defend Libya.

The gambit stems from a change in the law meant to make it easier for plaintiffs to secure judgments and collect from countries found responsible for sponsoring terrorist attacks. Until recently, those who had prevailed in court had few options for collecting.

But on Jan. 28, President George W. Bush signed a bill amending the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to allow plaintiffs to seek any asset owned by the terrorist-sponsoring country in reach of American courts, including frozen accounts or property managed by others. The amendment also permits victims to request punitive damages, which they couldn’t before, and eliminates some avenues for appeal. Under the new law, plaintiffs with pending cases had 60 days to file or refile claims.

Attorney Fay was among those lobbying for the new provision, which was sponsored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). (W.J. Hennigan, Legal Times, Apr. 15).

{ 1 comment }

1 Supremacy Claus 05.05.08 at 3:01 pm

One has to feel some ambivalence about this Act.

Lybian civil courts can do the same to US government assets and US companies. Remember how Reagan killed Khadafi’s infant daughter, sending a message ending the latter’s career as a terrorist? That was an intentional tort, subject to exemplary damages. The public elected Reagan, and their government was the employer of Reagan. The public’s assets, tax revenues, might be used by foreign courts as compensation. People would scream, but it would be only fair. So this lawsuit is a really bad idea.

On the other hand, torts is a good substitute for war. It can influence the likelihood of indirect funding of terrorists, intentionally or not. The US should be suing drug dealers, and the entire supply chain for promoting Taliban grown and manufactured heroin. The estates of overdose victims should have recourse as well. That would be a good use of torts.

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