Dismissal Reversed for Atchley v. AstraZeneca UK Ltd by DC Appellate Court

Atchley v. AstraZeneca UK Ltd., No. 20-7077, 2022 WL 30153 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 4, 2022)

By Alison Divine
In a unanimous decision on January 4th a three judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit reversed the dismissal of Atchley v. AstraZeneca UK Ltd., No. 20-7077, 2022 WL 30153 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 4, 2022) and remanded the case back to the district court. In Atchley, AstraZeneca and the other pharmaceutical defendants are being accused of supplying the terrorist group Jaysh al-Mahdi with support in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The district court, in dismissing the case, held that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim for primary or secondary (aiding and abetting) liability claims against the defendants. The Atchley plaintiffs, who are U.S. service members and other personnel who were victims of terrorist attacks and their families, allege that defendants illegally provided the Iraqi Ministry of Health which was controlled by Jaysh al-Mahdi, with cash kickbacks as well as free medical devices and drugs for resale.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit disagreed with the district court’s decision to dismiss and confirmed the correct standard for JASTA aiding and abetting claims, explaining that assistance is considered “knowing” if it is not provided accidentally. The Court also explained that an aider and abettor does not need to intend for terrorism to happen because of its actions nor share in the terrorist organization’s goals but may be acting only for monetary gain to be liable. Further, the Court held that JASTA has no “directness” requirement and that liability under the ATA is not limited to support for groups that “solely exist for terrorist purposes.”

This is a victory for our clients who are also clients in the Atchley case. It is also a good omen for our own ATA/JASTA cases, even though they are pending in another circuit and the facts are vastly different. Our cases allege that multiple banks knowingly provided illegal financial services to groups owned and controlled by Iran and that those services benefited the terrorist groups that injured our clients. The banks in our cases have made the same argument the pharmaceutical companies did in Atchley – that they did not intend for terrorism to happen because of their actions. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected this defense, as do we. We believe this appellate court decision establishes the correct standard for secondary liability cases under the ATA/JASTA, and we will continue to seek justice for our clients under these relatively new laws.

The Nations Law Firm represents Service Members, Veterans and Contractors who were injured in the Iraq War. To learn more about the current actions being taken, click here: /practice-areas/iraq-war-compensation-fund/