"Hillary Clinton has failed to respond to a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the parents of two of the men killed during the 2012 attack on the American outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
The Democratic presidential nominee was declared in default by the court clerk Friday — a designation that simply means she was served with court documents and that she did not answer the complaint. It is not a finding of liability.
In fact, Clinton’s Secret Service delegation and campaign aides refused to accept the summons, according to court documents.
But Clinton will now have to respond in some way — such as arguing that the default be set aside or moving to dismiss the case entirely — to avoid the possibility that a judge could rule automatically in favor of the plaintiffs.
Her lawyers could also seek an extension that would push her deadline for response past the November election.
Patricia Smith and Charles Woods claim in the suit that the attack that killed their sons, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods, as well as two other Americans, “was directly and proximately caused, at a minimum” by Clinton’s use of a private email server while in office.
“As a direct result of Defendant Clinton’s reckless handling of this classified, sensitive information, Islamic terrorists were able to obtain the whereabouts of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and thus the U.S. State Department and covert and other government operations in Benghazi, Libya and subsequently orchestrate, plan, and execute the now infamous September 11, 2012 attack,” according to the suit.
Both parents have been outspoken against Clinton.
Smith, who is a vocal supporter of GOP candidate Donald Trump, said during the Republican National Convention in July, “I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son.”
The Republican-lead House committee investigating the attacks found no new evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton, in a report filed in June.
Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton, said in a statement: “While no one can imagine the pain of the families of the brave Americans we lost at Benghazi, there have been nine different investigations into this attack and none found any evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton.”
According to the conservative lawyer and longtime Clinton enemy who brought the suit, Clinton’s failure to respond is evidence that the former secretary of State “doesn’t care about our clients."
“Most private litigants would never have something go into default and it’s tantamount to her saying, ‘What difference does this lawsuit make?’” said Larry Klayman, who founded the conservative watchdog groups Freedom Watch and Judicial Watch. He is no longer involved with Judicial Watch.
The suit, which targets Clinton in her private capacity, seeks unspecified damages and demands a trial by jury.
It is before Senior U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, where it was filed as a case related to a separate federal records suit involving Clinton’s server that was brought by Judicial Watch. Clinton lawyers may also contest that the wrongful death suit is genuinely related and the case could in theory be reassigned.
Friday’s declaration of default doesn’t carry any automatic impact — a default judgment, for example, would require a request from the plaintiffs. The court now awaits motion from either party.