Reuters International

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday threw out a $655.5 million (500.50 million pounds) judgment against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization after they had been found liable to a group of American families who accused them of supporting terrorist attacks in Israel.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said a lower court judge erred in concluding he had jurisdiction over the defendants with regard to the plaintiffs' claims. The appeals court ordered the lawsuit be dismissed.

Kent Yalowitz, a lawyer for the families, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for the Palestinian groups did not immediately respond to similar requests.

In February 2015 a federal jury found the defendants liable over six shootings and bombings between 2002 and 2004 in the Jerusalem area that killed 33 people, including several Americans, and wounded more than 450.

Jurors awarded $218.5 million, a sum automatically tripled under a U.S. anti-terrorism law to $655.5 million.

But the appeals court said neither the attacks nor the Palestinian groups had sufficient ties to the United States for the defendants to be subject to federal court jurisdiction. It also found no evidence the attacks specifically targeted American citizens.

"The terror machine gun attacks and suicide bombings that triggered this suit and victimized these plaintiffs were unquestionably horrific," Judge John Koeltl wrote for the appeals court.

"But the federal courts cannot exercise jurisdiction in a civil case beyond the limits prescribed by the due process clause of the Constitution, no matter how horrendous the underlying attacks or morally compelling the plaintiffs’ claims."

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)

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