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Former state senator
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Steve Harrelson, a Bentonville trial lawyer, was contacted by a family who lost a loved one in Pan Am Flight 103.  While justice seemed hopeless, the cause was picked up by the Harrelson Law Firm and others around the world who lost loved ones in the tragic place crash.  Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.  The bombing was found to be the result of a terror attack orchestrated by Libyan nationals.

Ultimately, Libya agreed to a $2.7 Billion settlement to relatives of Pan Am 103 victims.  The family of one of the victims resided in DeQueen, Arkansas, and Steve Harrelson was able to assist the family in negotiating a claim on their behalf, which resulted in a distribution in Sevier County Probate Court to the family members.

The settlement was not without the involvement of several key U.S. players and influential lawmakers.  Negotiations and partial payments took years of wrangling, and the settlement also cleared the way to normalize relations between Washington and Tripoli, which were estranged for decades following the crash.

The settlement was a milestone and did provide some measure of justice to families of U.S. victims of terrorism.  Payments were slow to come, and it took years for the Libyan government to pay the claims in full.  Libya initially deposited a total of $1.5 billion for American victims of Libyan bombings of Pan Am Flight 103. The remainder took years, and it also compensated American victims of other terror attacks associated with Libyan nationals.

As part of the settlement, the United States agreed to provide Libya with immunity in US courts from further terror claims as of the date of the settlement once the funds were paid in full.  Libya agreed to pay $10 million to each family of the 270 victims in the plane crash.  Part of the reason funds were withheld were due to Libya’s insistence that the US remove it from its list of states that sponsor terrorism.

Several key lawmakers, including Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) held up the appointment of a US ambassador in Tripoli until the reparation payments were completed.  Steve Harrelson was honored to represent the family of one of the victims, and even though the family will forever have a void in their heart, they feel that the terms of the settlement brought closure and justice not only for the loss of their loved one, but for the continued goal of peace and stability.

Steve Harrelson, a wrongful death lawyer licensed in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, stands ready to help those who have lost loved ones in tragic events such as the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.


Steve Harrelson is the founding partner of the Harrelson Law Firm, P.A.and is licensed to practice law in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas with offices in Texarkana and Bentonville.