Court rules against sailors in Cole attack
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled against sailors injured in the 2000 bombing of the destroyer Cole in Yemen by al-Qaida operatives, saying the sailors had failed to serve their legal papers properly in a lawsuit against the government of Sudan.
The decision threw out a $314 million default judgment, although the court said the sailors should be able to pursue further litigation.
The attack killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured dozens more. Fifteen of the injured sailors and three of their spouses sued Sudan by delivering a copy of their suit to its embassy in Washington. The suit said Sudan had harbored and supported Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaida in the years before the bombing.
The question for the justices was whether the suit had been properly served. A federal law allows service against foreign governments “by any form of mail requiring a signed receipt, to be addressed and dispatched” to “the head of the ministry of foreign affairs of the foreign state concerned.”
Justice Samuel Alito, writing for eight members of the court, said the language of the statute required sending the legal papers to the foreign ministry in Sudan rather than Sudan’s embassy in Washington.