The families had sought $105 million, but U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar in Norfolk ordered Sudan to pay $7.96 million.
Doumar applied the Death on the High Seas Act, which permits compensation for economic losses but not for pain and suffering.
"It is depressing to realize that a country organized on a religious basis with religious rule of law could and would execute its power for purposes which most countries would find intolerable and loathsome," Doumar wrote in his ruling. "It is a further tragedy that the laws of the United States, in this instance, provide no remedy for the psychological and emotional losses suffered by the survivors."
The families accused Sudan's government of providing support, including money and training, that allowed al Qaeda to attack the destroyer while it was in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000. In March, Doumar found the African country liable for the attack on the now-repaired Navy destroyer. His ruling Wednesday reaffirmed those findings.
"I was a little bit disappointed in the overall ruling, because we figured we was going to get more, but I'm happy that that part of the case is over," said Lorrie Triplett, 39, of Suffolk, whose husband, Andrew, died on the Cole. "For myself and my girls, I am happy for the ruling — it will suffice them."
Sudan had sought unsuccessfully to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that too much time had passed between the bombing and the filing of the lawsuit in 2004. Lawyers representing the Sudanese government did not offer opening statements or closing arguments or question any witnesses.
An attorney for the families has said it would be up to the lawyers to collect damages from Sudan's assets that have been frozen in the United States.