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PLO balks at claim it owes over $1 billion to Israel terror victims

March 24, 2015 By Larry Neumeister Associated Press
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, with the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center and representing those affected by attacks in Israel in the early 2000s, walks from a federal courthouse in New York on Feb. 23 after the conclusion of the case. A U.S. jury on Monday found the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority liable in the attacks, with jurors awarding the victims $218.5 million in damages in damages at a civil trial. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle
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Victims of terror attacks in Israel more than a decade ago are not entitled to boost a $654 million lawsuit award to more than a billion dollars by tacking on interest, lawyers for Palestinian authorities said.

Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority attorneys filed papers in Manhattan federal court late Monday challenging the $1.15 billion claim made by lawyers for victims of the bombings and shootings.

A federal jury last month awarded $218 million to victims after concluding the Palestinian groups were behind attacks in the early 2000s that killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more, including some Americans. The award is automatically tripled under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, raising the total to $654 million.

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The lawyers said well-established accounting and economic principles were violated when an expert for the plaintiffs tacked on prejudgment interest as if daily interest was calculated since the 2002 to 2004 period of the attacks.

They said the trial record makes clear that the jury measured its verdict awards in current dollars.

In papers filed on behalf of terror attack victims, plaintiffs’ lawyers tallied the amount in damages owed to each plaintiff and the amount of interest that must be added.

Lawyers for the PLO and PA said a substantial amount of the jury’s verdict was meant to compensate plaintiffs for future damages from their injuries and thus was not entitled to interest.

“The jury already accounted for the time lapse between the dates of the attacks and the jury verdict, awarding damages to plaintiffs in present-day dollars,” the lawyers said. “Even if the court determines that some form of compensation is due to plaintiffs for the time between the attacks and the present,” the automatic tripling of damages “adequately compensates plaintiffs for that time delay.”

Plaintiffs’ attorney Robert Tolchin said there are ambiguities in the law regarding interest on judgments that the judge will have to decide. He said the plaintiffs will file papers opposing the conclusions of the Palestinians’ lawyers.

“It’s not a grand moral issue of our time. It’s a technical issue,” he said. “Interest will be awarded. It’s just a question of what interest and at what rate.”

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