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Judge orders North Korea to pay Otto Warmbier’s family over $500 million for ‘wrongful death’

(Xinhua/Lu Rui via Getty Images)

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A federal judge awarded the parents of American college student Otto Warmbier over $500 million in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against North Korea.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier claimed that their son had been held hostage and tortured, and U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell agreed, harshly condemning North Korea for its “barbaric mistreatment” of Warmbie, according to the Associated Press.

“We put ourselves and our family through the ordeal of a lawsuit and public trial because we promised Otto that we will never rest until we have justice for him,” they said in a statement. “Today’s thoughtful opinion by Chief Judge Howell is a significant step on our journey.”


In holding the country liable for Warmbier’s death, the judge, an Obama appointee, awarded punitive damages and payments covering medical expenses, economic loss and pain and suffering to the parents.

As a result of “the torture, hostage-taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier,” Howell ruled his estate is entitled to $21 million in compensatory damages and $150 million in punitive damages, and the parents are each entitled to $15 million in compensatory damages and $150 million in punitive damages.

The college student was arrested for stealing a propaganda poster while in the country, and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016. Warmbier, in a coma and showing signs of torture, was released in June 2017 and died within days of returning to the U.S.

Talk about bad timing, President Trump tweeted the same day the ruling came down that he was looking forward to his next summit with the North Korean dictator.


The parents were seeking more than $1 billion, which amounts to about 2.5% of North Korea’s 2015 gross domestic product, according to NBC — and at even half the amount, the likelihood that Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un coughs up the cash is all but nonexistent.

Meaning the ruling is little more than a symbolic victory.


Social media users were very skeptical that the Warmbiers ever see a dime of the money awarded, although one suggested that perhaps Jong-Un’s pal Dennis Rodman will chip in.

Here’s a sampling of the responses from Twitter:

Tom Tillison


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