[What follows is excerpted from an obituary that appeared in yesterday’s edition of The New York Times:]
Thomas C Platt, a federal judge in New York (...) died on Saturday in North Branford, Conn. He was 91. (...)
Judge Platt, who sat in federal courthouses in Brooklyn and on Long Island, also presided over lawsuits against the Libyan government and Pan American World Airways stemming from the terrorist bombing of a jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. A Libyan intelligence officer was convicted of orchestrating the attack, which killed 259 people aboard a London-to-New York flight and 11 on the ground. (...)
In the lawsuits against Pan Am over the bombing of Flight 103, victims’ families contended that inadequate baggage-security procedures had let an unaccompanied suitcase containing the bomb be placed on the plane.
Judge Platt presided at the trial, in 1992. A jury agreed with the families, permitting trials on each family’s damage claim, though most were settled without trial.
In 1995, the judge dismissed family members’ lawsuits against the Libyan government, ruling that American law granted other nations immunity from suits in American courts, with exceptions that did not pertain to this case.
But after Congress amended the law in 1996 to allow suits in the United States against nations sponsoring terrorism, the families again filed their claims, and Judge Platt rejected Libyan arguments that the suits still warranted dismissal despite the change in law.
In 2002, Libya preliminarily agreed to settle the case by paying up to $10 million to each family. It was six more years before a final agreement was reached.