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Terrorism can be basis for wrongful death lawsuits

In the weeks following the December 2, 2015, San Bernardino, California, shooting, which has been deemed to be a terrorist attack by a self-radicalized couple, family members will begin laying their loved ones to rest and saying their final goodbyes. 

But for many families, the funerals won't be the end of the story; either for the emotional losses they have suffered or the financial fallout resulting from the violent deaths of their loved ones at the hands of two extremists with a deadly agenda and the weapons to back it up. Family members of terrorism victims can have filed wrongful death lawsuits before in the wake of individual attacks, and it's likely we can expect they will do so again after the shocking attacks in San Bernardino earlier this month. 

After the 9/11 attacks, 85 wrongful death lawsuits made their way through Federal District Court in Manhattan over the course of ten years. The final lawsuit named United Airlines and security company Huntleigh USA as defendants, citing their failure to keep terrorists from boarding flight 175, which was the second plane to hit the World Trade Center towers. 

Homegrown shootings with no link to international terrorism have also inspired wrongful death lawsuits, including the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech and the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, in which 20 first graders and 6 staff members were killed by lone gunmen. In each case, the defendants have differed. The Sandy Hook case named gun makers as defendants in the killings, whereas the Virginia Tech case sought to hold the state responsible for failing to keep students safe. 

With the steady drumbeat of terrorist attacks happening both at home and abroad, it appears unlikely that wrongful death cases related to these attacks will cease anytime soon. 


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