What were your first thoughts when you heard that a $6 billion verdict was ordered in favor of the victims of 9/11? What about when you heard the list of defendants?
Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah … those names are not much of a surprise. They’re all terrorists. What about the Nation of Iran? Iran was also found at fault in the verdict.
Legally, the case wasn’t much of a battle. The defendants never showed up. There was little done beyond a few legal pleadings. The verdict was ordered due to a default judgment, which is a legal way of saying that you lose because you didn’t play. To be clear:
There was no evidence presented.
There were no counter-arguments or defense attorneys.
There was no trial.
How much does that matter, legally? Not at all. If you are sued, and don’t show up, you lose via default judgment. It’s as simple as that.
Thanks to that default judgment, at least on paper, those responsible for 9/11 have been assigned the proper blame. And for those of us that didn’t know about Iran’s involvement, there’s a bit of an educational benefit to the verdict as well.
You’re probably also wondering what the odds are of the victims of 9/11 actually seeing any of that $6 billion? Ordinarily, when a verdict is entered and the defendant doesn’t pay up, their assets, such as houses and cars, can be seized and sold. The proceeds pay off the verdict. Any leftovers are returned to the defendant.
Well, Bin Laden is dead, and was reportedly broke before he died. His former comrades, al Qaeda and the Taliban don’t have anything left either. If they did have any assets outside of their little caves, our government has already seized them. The same goes for Hezbollah’s assets, since they are also a terrorist organization.
The really interesting defendant is Iran. Grand Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei seems to have known about the plot, aided the hijackers’ transit to the U.S., and provided some safe haven for al Qaeda members after 9/11.
Also, since they defaulted in court, legally, their assets in the United States could be seized. Does this mean that we’re going to foreclose on the Iranian embassy? Probably not. Any actual asset seizure would probably spark some powerful political headaches for President Obama.
Realistically, the $6 billion verdict means very little, at least in a tangible sense. But to the families of the victims, and even to the rest of us, it still brings a little bit of relief to know that someone has officially been found at fault.
- Speak to a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Judge nails Iran, Al Qaeda for 9/11 with $6 billion penalty in lawsuit (New York Daily News)
- September 11 Victim Mark Bavis Wrongful Death Lawsuit (FindLaw’s New York Personal Injury Law Blog)
- New Health Bill Offers Medical Care For September 11 Responders (FindLaw’s New York Personal Injury Law Blog)