Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Dept. of Justice: Award to Family in Military Jet Crash Case Creates "Dangerous Precedent"
U.S. Government Ordered to Pay $17.8 Million in Damages After Jet Crashes into University City Home and Kills Inhabitants; Officials Worry that 'Now, the Family of Every Tom, Dick, and Harry Who Gets Tagged by an Errant Drone or a Misdropped Bomb will Be Suing Us."
"I mean, we kill a lot of people, some of them by accident. Where does it end?"
IN CHAMBERS, FEDERAL COURTHOUSE, SAN DIEGO - "I know everyone thinks this is a special case," says Department of Justice attorney Walter Hardass of the ruling which awarded millions of dollars to the surviving relatives of the three people killed in 2008 when a Marine Corps F-18 Hornet fighter jet crashed into a home in University City, near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. "You know - an American jet taking out American citizens on American soil. But the fact is, thanks to the Alien Tort Statute of 1789, foreigners can sue in U.S. court over acts committed outside of U.S. territories."
Hardass points to the 2004 Supreme Court ruling on Sosa v. Alvarez Machain as an example. "According to Sosa, the ATS permits an alien plaintiff to file a tort claim against any person over whom the United States has personal jurisdiction...Yeah, you've got to have specificity similar to the 18th century common-law causes that were actionable under the ATS at the time of its passage, but the specificity lauded by the Court in United States v. Smith covers the typical elements of a criminal cause of action, such as actus reus, mens rea, harm, causation, remedy, and defenses. There is more than a little evidence to suggest that errant drone attacks, conducted within a nation that is technically an ally - read: Pakistan - could fall under such causes."
"I'm not saying that the family in this case wasn't deserving," concludes Hardass. "I'm saying that the United States should think about being more careful with its firepower. War is expensive enough without involving the justice system."