Waldman v. Palestine Liberation Organization

835 F.3d 317 (2nd Cir. 2016)


Ps, eleven American families, sued Ds under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), for various terror attacks in Israel that killed or wounded Ps or their family members. Ds argued that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over them in light of their minimal presence in, and the lack of any nexus between the facts underlying Ps' claims and the United States. The PLO was founded in 1964. It was headquartered in Ramallah, the Gaza Strip, and Amman, Jordan. The PLO has maintained over 75 embassies, missions, and delegations around the world. The PLO is registered as a foreign agent. The PLO has two diplomatic offices in the United States: a mission to the United States in Washington, D.C. and a mission to the United Nations in New York City. The Washington, D.C. mission had fourteen employees. The Washington, D.C. and New York missions engaged in diplomatic activities during the relevant period. The Washington, D.C. mission 'had a substantial commercial presence in the United States.' It used dozens of telephone numbers, purchased office supplies, paid for certain living expenses for Hassan Abdel Rahman, the chief PLO and PA representative in the United States, and engaged in other transactions. Courts have repeatedly held that neither the PA nor the PLO is a 'state' under United States or international law. The PA is the governing authority in Palestine and employs tens of thousands of security personnel in Palestine. The 'PA funds conventional government services, including developing infrastructure; public safety and the judicial system; health care; public schools and education; foreign affairs; economic development initiatives in agriculture, energy, public works, and public housing; the payment of more than 155,000 government employee salaries and related pension funds; transportation; and, communications and information technology services.' The district court concluded that the service of process was properly effected by serving the Chief Representative of the PLO and the PA, Hassan Abdel Rahman, at his home in Virginia, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h)(1)(B). The district court engaged in a two-part analysis to determine whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction comported with the due process protections of the United States Constitution. It determined whether ds had sufficient minimum contacts with the forum such that the maintenance of the action did not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The court considered what it deemed the defendants' 'substantial commercial presence in the United States,' in particular 'a fully and continuously functional office in Washington, D.C.,' bank accounts and commercial contracts, and 'a substantial promotional presence in the United States, with the D.C. office having been permanently dedicated to promoting the interests of the PLO and the PA.' The district court considered ''whether the assertion of personal jurisdiction comports with 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice'---that is, whether it is reasonable under the circumstances of the particular case.'' The district court concluded that 'there is a strong inherent interest of the United States and Plaintiffs in litigating ATA claims in the United States,' and that the defendants 'failed to identify an alternative forum where Ps' claims could be brought, and where the foreign court could grant a substantially similar remedy.' The Supreme Court significantly narrowed the general personal jurisdiction test in Daimler. The district court denied Ds' motions for reconsideration, ruling that Daimler did not compel dismissal. A jury found that Ds acting through their employees, perpetrated the attacks and that Ds knowingly provided material support to organizations designated by the United States State Department as foreign terrorist organizations. Ps got damages of $218.5 million, which was trebled automatically to $655.5 million. Ds appealed. Ds argue that the United States Constitution precludes the exercise of personal jurisdiction over them.