Saudi Arabia faces $6 bln US lawsuit by Sept. 11 insurers

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia is facing a renewed $6 billion lawsuit by dozens of insurers seeking to hold it responsible for business and property damage caused by the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The lawsuit filed late Thursday in the US District Court in Manhattan is the latest effort to hold Saudi Arabia liable for the attacks.

Nearly 3,000 people died when hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania field.

Insurers, including Liberty Mutual, Safeco, Wausau and many Lloyd's syndicates, accused Saudi Arabia and a state-affiliated charity of providing funding and other material support that enabled Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to conduct the attacks.

The Saudi government has long denied involvement. Lawyers for the government and the charity, the Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia & Herzegovina, on Friday declined to comment or could not immediately be reached for comment.

Saudi Arabia long had broad immunity from Sept. 11 lawsuits in the United States.

That changed in September, when Congress overrode a veto by former President Barack Obama and adopted the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, permitting such lawsuits to proceed.

The insurers said they plan to show that the Sept. 11 attacks were an "act of international terrorism" within the meaning of JASTA. They are seeking more than $2 billion in compensatory damages, plus triple and punitive damages.

At least seven lawsuits were also filed in the Manhattan court on behalf of individuals.

These include a lawsuit on Monday by families of about 800 attack victims, as well as 1,500 people injured after responding to the New York attack.

Until last month, the insurers had been appealing a Sept. 2015 dismissal of their case by US District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan, who oversees many Sept. 11 lawsuits.

But the appeal was vacated after Saudi Arabia, the insurers and other plaintiffs agreed in a joint court filing that JASTA "was intended to apply" to their cases, and that Daniels should review its impact.

The case is The Underwriting Members of Lloyd's Syndicate 53 et al v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia et al, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-02129.