The Southern District of New York recently granted a motion for damages by insurance plaintiffs in a multidistrict litigation case against Iran stemming from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The court previously entered a default judgment against Iran and tasked a magistrate judge with calculating damages. The present opinion stemmed from plaintiff's objections to the magistrate's recommendations that plaintiffs could not recover reinsurance payments made related to the attacks and that prejudgment interest began to accrue on the individual dates of payment of each claim for which plaintiffs sought damages.
First, the court agreed with plaintiffs and awarded damages for the reinsurance payments at issue. Plaintiffs objected to the magistrate's recommendation because another case in the MDL had previously awarded damages for reinsurance payments (constituting law of the case) and that, contrary to the magistrate's logic, their subrogation rights did not depend on contractual privity. The Southern District side-stepped the issue of whether the "law of the case" doctrine applied by concluding equitable subrogation, a doctrine sounding in equity rather than contract, does not require contractual privity under New York law. While not officially deciding the law of the case issue, the court in dicta noted the existence of a D.C. federal case allowing recovery for reinsurance payments on an unrelated terrorist attack and that the magistrate provided no basis for distinguishing the present case from the previously decided MDL case.
Second, the court determined that the date of the September 11 terrorist attacks was the appropriate benchmark for when prejudgment interest should start accruing. New York law provides that damages for losses arising in the state incurred at various times may trigger interest either at the date of each loss individually or upon a "single reasonable intermediate date." Instead of triggering interest accrual for each loss based on the date each claim was paid, the court affixed all prejudgment interest to begin accruing on September 11, 2001 to promote consistency in the MDL cases and avoid complex calculations. As to losses arising outside of New York, the court likewise exercised its broad discretion to select September 11, 2001—the date of the underlying terrorist attack and the date selected for New York losses—to be the date from which prejudgment interest is to be calculated for non-New York losses.
In re Terrorist Attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Case No. 03-MDL-1570 (USDC S.D.N.Y. June 25, 2018).
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