Default ruling against PA set aside in terror case

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A U.S. federal judge dismissed a default judgment against the Palestinian Authority in a case arising from a 2002 suicide bombing.

Richard Leon ruled last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that the Palestinian Authority may again litigate a lawsuit brought by survivors and families of victims of the attack in Karnei Shomron. Three teenagers were killed and nearly 30 people were injured in the bombing in the West Bank settlement.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, had claimed responsibility for the attack. The families and survivors of the attack argued that the PA bore responsibility because it provided major support for the PLO.

The plaintiffs had sought $300 million in damages. Two of the dead teens were American citizens.  

The PA said U.S. courts had no jurisdiction and would not contest the case, and a court ruled for the plaintiffs by default.

Courts in the past have preferred to defer consideration of foreign policy issues to the executive branch, although in recent years a number of courts have allowed such cases to proceed.

Leon noted precedents setting aside default judgments in his decision to allow the case to go forward now that the PA is ready to mount a defense.

The judge warned, however, that a failure to reach a settlement would likely necessitate judgments against the PA.

"A willful default cannot be excused without sanction," Leon wrote. "Unless a settlement on this issue is agreed to by parties, this Court will entertain a motion seeking attorneys’ fees and other damages that have resulted from defendants’ dilatory conduct."

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