Court: US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Opinion Date: June 9, 2021
Judge: Amalya Lyle Kearse
Areas of Law: International Law, Personal Injury
Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint (SAC), seeking (A) to hold the bank liable as a principal under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 (ATA) for providing banking services to Hizbollah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization alleged to have injured plaintiffs in a series of terroristic rocket attacks in Israel in July and August 2006; and (B) to hold the bank liable as a coconspirator or aider and abettor of Hizbollah under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The district court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
The Second Circuit concluded that plaintiffs having abandoned their ATA terrorism and JASTA conspiracy claims, and thus the court addressed only their JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims. In regard to the JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims, the court found merit in plaintiffs’ contentions that the district court did not correctly apply the analytical framework set out in Halberstam v. Welch, 705 F.2d 472 6 (D.C. Cir. 1983), specified by Congress as the proper legal framework for assessing such claims. The Halberstam requirements for a claim of aiding and abetting are (1) that the person whom the defendant aided must have performed a wrongful act that caused injury, (2) that the defendant must have been “generally aware of his role as part of an overall illegal or tortious activity at the time that he provide[d] the assistance,” and (3) “the defendant must [have] knowingly and substantially assist[ed] the principal violation.”
The court concluded that the district court erred in its findings as to the plausibility of, and the permissible inferences that could be drawn from, SAC allegations of the bank’s knowledge that the customers it was assisting were affiliated with Hizbollah and that it was aiding Hizbollah’s terrorist activities. The court explained that the plausibility of the allegations as to LCB’s knowledge of Hizbollah’s terrorist activities and of the customers’ affiliation with Hizbollah is sufficient to permit the inference that LCB was at least generally aware that through its money-laundering banking services to the customers, LCB was playing a role in Hizbollah’s terrorist activities. Furthermore, the SAC adequately pleaded that LCB knowingly gave the customers assistance that both aided Hizbollah and was qualitatively and quantitatively substantial. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court’s dismissal of the JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims and remanded for further proceedings.
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