Supreme Court Tosses $315 Million Bombing Award Against Sudan

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a $315 million judgment against Sudan, saying the country hadn’t been properly notified about the lawsuit by victims of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

The suit, filed by sailors and spouses, claimed Sudan bore responsibility because it harbored Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda, the terrorist group that carried out the attack that killed 17 crew members.

But the high court’s 8-1 ruling said federal law required a copy of the suit to be mailed to the Sudanese foreign minister in Khartoum, and not to the Sudanese Embassy in Washington.

"The most natural reading of this language is that service must be mailed directly to the foreign minister’s office in the foreign state," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court.

Alito said the victims can attempt to serve the suit again, and if that doesn’t work, federal law says the suit can be sent to the U.S. secretary of state, who would transmit it to the foreign country through diplomatic channels. The justice wrote that while he understood the "exasperation" of those who sued, strict requirements for serving lawsuits must be followed.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying it was sufficient to send the suit to Sudan’s embassy in Washington.

Sudan didn’t defend against the lawsuit and was hit with a default judgment. The country started fighting in court only after the victims tried to collect the award by seizing money held in U.S. bank accounts.

The Trump administration sided with Sudan at the Supreme Court.

The case is Republic of Sudan v. Harrison, 16-1094.

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