9 -11 Litigations


9/11 Litigations

Anderson Kill is counsel to lead plaintiff Christine O’Neill, the widow of former FBI counterterrorism chief John P. O’Neill, and thousands of co-plaintiffs in In Re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001. That suit consolidates litigation originating in 2004 by families of 9/11 victims seeking justice and restitution from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and multiple other parties, including individuals, institutions, and nation-states, alleged to have provided material support to al Qaeda.

Anderson Kill’s involvement in the litigation began in May 2008 when litigator Jerry S. Goldman, counsel since 2004 to the O’Neill family, joined the firm. Mr. Goldman is a member of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee of the multi-district litigation (MDL). Bruce Strong, a shareholder in Anderson Kill’s New York and Philadelphia offices, as well as other attorneys and paralegals, are also  members of the litigation team.

Mr. Goldman and co-counsel have pursued justice for the 9/11 families through a seventeen-year litigation odyssey with many twists and turns, all the while pursuing access to long-withheld information that they will use to supplement existing evidence of foreign government support of the hijackers. As Mr. Goldman has commented, “We will not rest until we hold the perpetrators of these mass murderous attacks accountable and obtain justice for the victims.”

Prior to September 2016, U.S. district and appeals courts opined several times on whether sovereign immunity protected Saudi Arabia from accountability for the attacks. In September 2016, Congress enacted the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) and following that, the District Court permitted the case against the Kingdom to proceed into discovery. 

Another milestone was obtaining judgments on behalf of 1,772 claimants against the Islamic Republic of Iran, totaling almost $12 billion, resulting in award compensation from the United States Victim of State Sponsored Terrorist Fund. In the late fall/winter of 2021-22 we filed motions seeking judgments totaling another approximately $4.6 billion on behalf of approximately 694 additional 9/11 victim estates and family members against Iran.

The Anderson Kill team communicates with the families on a regular basis, sustaining its deep commitment to helping those who suffered as a result of 9/11 find restitution and closure. The team has, with co-counsel, conducted hundreds of hours of depositions, successfully fought over the release of thousands of pages of concealed evidence, and litigated challenging legal matters in United States District Courts in Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago and the United States Courts of Appeals for the 2nd, D.C. and 7th Circuits, as well as presented and defended four petitions for certiorari before the United States Supreme Court.  In conjunction with the case, Anderson Kill also filed an amicus in support of a writ of certiorari and then a merits amicus before the United States Supreme Court. 

As a member of the plaintiffs’ team consolidated in the MDL, Anderson Kill has been involved in seeking the passage of more than five pieces of federal legislation, one over a presidential veto, and has engaged with the Executive Branch over several different administrations.

The experience accumulated in this legal odyssey, now well into its second decade, is career-defining for those engaged, and very rarely replicated. The Anderson Kill team stands ready to help victims in complex, high-stakes litigation -- whatever it takes for however long it takes to find justice.


WATCH: Anderson Kill’s Jerry Goldman, Bruce Strong and Yogeeta Shiwdin discuss their work for the 9/11 plaintiffs

“I speak to the widows and the children, the parents and the siblings. I know their pain, and I make sure their rights are going to be vindicated.” – Jerry S. Goldman


9/11 litigation timeline

March 10, 2004 – Jerry S. Goldman files suit on behalf of Christine O’Neill, wife of former FBI counterterrorism chief John O’Neill, later certified as a lead plaintiff in In Re Terrorist Attacks, the multidistrict litigation that seeks redress for the families of 9/11 victims. This was the first suit filed on behalf of an estate of an individual killed on 9/11 directly against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the O’Neill family and a putative class. The suit also names other governments as defendants, including Sudan.  A companion class action case was filed simultaneously against banks and purported charities and consolidated with an earlier-filed individual case against Iran and the Taliban.

January 18, 2005 – District Court rules on sovereign immunity grounds that plaintiffs cannot sue KSA. Plaintiffs appeal.

May 2008 – Jerry S. Goldman joins Anderson Kill, beginning the firm’s involvement in the 9/11 litigation.

August 14, 2008 – U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit rules that suit against KSA cannot proceed on sovereign immunity grounds different from those invoked by the District Court.

June 29, 2009 – U.S. Supreme Court declines to review the finding of KSA immunity, accepting recommendation of the Executive Branch.

November 2011 – 2nd Circuit admits it erred in interpreting the law governing foreign sovereign immunity and overturns its 2008 holding.

December 2011 – Plaintiffs file motion with the District Court to reopen the case against KSA based on 2nd Circuit reversal.

March 2012 – District Court declines to reopen the case against KSA.

April 16, 2013 – 2nd Circuit allows case to proceed against certain Saudi-based international charities, al-Qaeda funders, and financial intermediaries and dismisses certain foreign banks from the suit on personal jurisdiction grounds.

December 19, 2013 – 2nd Circuit reverses District Court ruling and reopens case against KSA.

June 30, 2014 – Supreme Court declines to hear appeal of decision allowing the case to proceed against al-Qaeda funders, certain Saudi-based international charities, and financial intermediaries and dismissing certain foreign banks from suit. Supreme Court also declines to hear appeal of decision reopening the case against KSA.

September 29, 2015 – District Court again dismisses KSA on sovereign immunity grounds. Plaintiffs appeal to 2nd Circuit.

Spring – Fall 2016 – Both houses of Congress pass the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), narrowing the scope of sovereign immunity for nation-states that sponsor terrorism. President vetoes the act; Congress overrides the veto on September 28, 2016.

February 7, 2017 – 2nd Circuit vacates dismissal of KSA from suit, based upon JASTA, and remands case to the District Court for further proceedings.

March 28, 2018 – District Court denies KSA’s motion to dismiss and orders jurisdictional discovery against KSA.

2019-2020 – U.S. Government claims “state secrets” and “law enforcement privilege due to a pending criminal investigation,” and invokes a “core records approach” to limit plaintiffs’ access to key documents and information held by the U.S.

November 21, 2019 – Congress passes Clarification Act, expanding scope of participants in the Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (VSST). Anderson Kills secures $11.9 billion in judgments against Iran for 1772 claimants and files their claims with the VSST, which awards compensation in 2020.

December 28, 2020 – The Sudan Claims Resolution Act is enacted allowing case to proceed against Sudan.

May 10, 2021 – Anderson Kill files Administrative Procedure Act (APA) suit against U.S. Government seeking that additional funds be allocated to the VSST pursuant to the Clarification Act.

August 2021 – Expert discovery complete as to defendant bank, Saudi-based international charities, and al-Qaeda funders.

July 2021 – Party fact discovery “complete” as to KSA, subject to challenges against U.S. Government withholding documents.  Expert discovery to begin in April 2022 and scheduled to end July 1, 2022.

September 3, 2021 – President issues Executive Order to re-review withholding of materials by U.S. Government – professes transparency, no law enforcement privilege and limited application of state secrets privilege. Documents are being/have been publicly released in tranches on September 11, 2021, November 2, 2021, January 2, 2022, and March 2, 2022.

November 2021 – January 2022 – Anderson Kill files motions seeking judgments against Iran totaling $4.6 billion on behalf of approximately 694 additional 9/11 victim estates and family members; as of the end of January, 2022, 645 of them have been granted, with the motions filed in January still pending. Also during that time period, Anderson Kill institutes its 23rd case against Iran on behalf of another 100 victim estates and family members.

“We cannot thank you all enough, for all the long hours and exhausting work that you carry out, day in and day out; for all these past years, on our behalf.  Our deepest gratitude to each and every one of you.” 9-11 Widow

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