Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 16-1625 (RC)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge
Citation437 F.Supp.3d 15
Parties Kevin BARRY, et al. Plaintiffs, v. ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, Defendant.
Decision Date04 February 2020
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 16-1625 (RC)

437 F.Supp.3d 15

Kevin BARRY, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, Defendant.

Civil Action No. 16-1625 (RC)

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

Signed February 4, 2020


437 F.Supp.3d 25

Steven Marc Schneebaum, Steven M. Schneebaum, P.C., Aryeh S. Portnoy, Crowell & Moring, LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING IN PART SMITH PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT ON LIABILITY; GRANTING SMITH PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO SUBSTITUTE; GRANTING IN PART SMITH PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO ADOPT SPECIAL MASTER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION; DENYING AS MOOT SMITH PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR HEARINGS

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

In 1983 and 1984, respectively, two terrorist attacks targeted American servicemembers and embassy employees stationed in East Beirut, Lebanon. This Court, along with other courts in this Circuit, has contended with the tragic impact of these bombings in a number of mass tort lawsuits brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"). Presently before the Court are the claims of hundreds of individuals who were either injured—in some cases fatally—in these attacks while acting in their capacity as a U.S. government employee or contractor or who are the immediate family members of such directly-injured individuals. Defendant Iran has not entered an appearance in the more than three years since the suit was filed. This Court must now decide whether to enter default judgment concerning liability for Plaintiffs and whether to adopt the Special Master's Report and Recommendation ("R. & R." or "report") concerning damages. As set forth below, the Court finds that the majority of the Smith Plaintiffs have established liability and will enter default judgment concerning these individuals and, further, adopts in part the Special Master's suggested damages awards.1

II. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

The instant suit was initially filed by seven individuals—the "Barry Plaintiffs"—who were serving at the U.S. Embassy Annex in East Beirut, Lebanon at the time of the 1984 bombing. On November 14, 2017, the Court granted leave for hundreds of additional plaintiffs—the "Smith Plaintiffs"—to intervene. See Order, ECF No. 14; see also Intervenor Compl. by All Smith Plaintiffs ("Intervenor Compl."), ECF No. 17. The Smith Plaintiffs, whose motions are presently before the Court, fall into two categories.

The first category consists of individuals who were employed by or performing contracts awarded by the U.S. government, or the estates of such individuals, at the time of the 1983 and/or 1984 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Embassy Annex in

437 F.Supp.3d 26

Beirut, Lebanon.2 See Mem. Supporting Smith Pls.' Renewed Consent Motion for Adoption of Administrative Plan ("Mem. Supporting Smith Pls.' Renewed Mot.") 3, ECF No. 33-1. The second category of Smith Plaintiffs consists of nearly four hundred immediate family members of directly-injured individuals who "suffered emotional distress as a result of the attacks on their loved ones."3 Mem. Supporting Smith Pls.' Renewed Mot. 3.

The Smith Plaintiffs present several theories of relief. First, the directly-injured individuals seek compensatory damages pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1605A(c)'s private cause of action, see Intervenor Compl. ¶¶ 489–95, and, in addition, the personal representatives of those who were fatally injured in one of the attacks seek economic damages for wrongful death, id. ¶¶ 502–06. Second, all Smith Plaintiffs, including both the directly-injured plaintiffs and the family member plaintiffs, seek compensatory damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"), ¶¶ 496–501, and for solatium and/or loss of consortium due to the "extreme mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, and the loss of the society and companionship of the victims," ¶¶ 510–11.4

While these claims were pending before the Court, given the number of individuals involved and their location across multiple continents, see Mem. Supporting Smith Pls.' Renewed Mot. 3, counsel for the intervenor plaintiffs moved for adoption of an administrative plan wherein an appointed special master would issue a report and recommendation on compensatory damages for the Smith Plaintiffs, see Smith Pls.' Renewed Consent Mot., ECF No. 33. The Court granted this motion, see Order, ECF No. 36, and Special Master Griffin's sealed report was filed on August 9, 2019, see ECF No. 39. Thereafter, the Court directed the parties to submit supplemental briefing to clarify the status of all Smith Plaintiffs and their legal representatives as well as the methodology used by the Special Master to calculate damages. See Order (Oct. 21, 2019), ECF No. 47. The Smith Plaintiffs and Special Master Griffin timely provided the requested information. See Smith Plaintiffs' Response to Court's October 21, 2019 Order ("Smith Pls.' Response"), ECF No. 48. In tandem with their supplementary briefing, the Smith Plaintiffs filed motions requesting the substitution of certain legal representatives, ECF No. 50, and moving for the Court to adopt the Special Master's report and recommendations, as supplemented, ECF No. 53. Defendant Iran continues to decline to participate in this suit, and the Smith Plaintiffs' pending motions have ripened.

The Court previously entered default judgment concerning liability and damages for the Barry Plaintiffs, see Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran ("Barry I "), 410 F. Supp. 3d 161 (D.D.C. 2019) and will now consider the Smith Plaintiffs' motion for default judgment concerning liability, review the Special Master's damages recommendations, and address the Smith Plaintiffs' motion to adopt these recommendations.

B. Factual History

The Smith Plaintiffs were injured in the 1983 terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in East Beirut, Lebanon and/or

437 F.Supp.3d 27

the attack on the U.S. Embassy Annex in East Beirut the following year.5 The bombing of the U.S. Embassy on April 18, 1983, "was the first large-scale attack against a United States Embassy anywhere in the world." Dammarell I, 281 F. Supp. 2d at 111. At just past 1:00 p.m. on that date, a vehicle "laden with hundreds of pounds of explosives" was driven into the main entrance of the Embassy, whereupon it "exploded with a force so powerful that seven floors in the center section of the crescent-shaped building collapsed." Id. ; see also Salazar v. Islamic Republic of Iran , 370 F. Supp. 2d 105 (D.D.C. 2005) (taking judicial notice of the Dammarell court's factual findings regarding the 1983 attack). As a result of this attack, over sixty individuals were fatally wounded and over one hundred others were injured. Id.

After the 1983 attack, the operations of the U.S. embassy were transferred to the Embassy Annex, located in a different part of the city that was believed to be safer. See Estate of Doe I , 808 F. Supp. 2d at 7. But tragedy struck once more on September 20, 1984. That morning, the driver of a vehicle loaded with explosives evaded the concrete barriers put up as protection, ignored orders to halt, and detonated a bomb estimated to contain approximately 1500 kilograms of explosives. See Barry I , 410 F. Supp. 3d at 169 (citing

437 F.Supp.3d 28

Brewer , 664 F. Supp. 2d at 47 ; Wagner , 172 F. Supp. 2d at 132 ). The explosion, which "demolished the embassy building," Wagner , 172 F. Supp. 2d at 132, killed over ten individuals and injured over fifty others, see Estate of Doe I , 808 F. Supp. 2d at 8.

The Smith Plaintiffs were among those struck by one or both attacks. More than 80 individuals who were at the site of one or both explosions were injured, many fatally, and their hundreds of immediate family members have contended with the ongoing pain of the bombings for over three decades. Based on the Smith Plaintiffs' filings and the Special Master's submissions to the Court, it is clear that these acts of terror deeply affected these individuals' lives. The question facing the Court is whether it should, as a matter of law, enter default judgment on the Smith Plaintiffs' claims, and if so, what measure of compensatory and economic damages are appropriate. For the reasons set forth below, the Court enters default judgment concerning liability and adopts in part the damages recommendations in the Special Master's report.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Default Judgment

As this Court previously detailed in Barry I , 410 F. Supp. 3d 161, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 sets forth a two-step process for a party seeking default judgment: entry of default, followed by entry of default judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 55 ; see also Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Indust. Pension Fund v. Rose City Glass Co., Inc. , 729 F. Supp. 2d 336, 338 n.3 (D.D.C. 2010) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 55 ; Eitel v. McCool , 782 F.2d 1470, 1471 (9th Cir. 1986) ; Meehan v. Snow , 652 F.2d 274, 276 (2d Cir. 1981) ). First, after a defendant has failed to plead or...

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11 practice notes
  • Ackley v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action 20-cv-621 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 12 Agosto 2022
    ...to be fully compensatory” and prejudgment interest is therefore unwarranted. 332 F.Supp.3d at 46; see Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 437 F.Supp.3d 15, 60 (D.D.C. 2020) (Contreras, J.) (quoting Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic, 908 F.Supp.2d 216, 232 (D.D.C. 2012)); see Doe v. Democratic Pe......
  • Akins v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 17-675 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 16 Julio 2021
    ...and suffering and solatium damages are both designed to be fully compensatory." 549 F.Supp.3d 122 Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran , 437 F. Supp. 3d 15, 60 (D.D.C. 2020) (Contreras, J.) (quoting Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic , 908 F. Supp. 2d 216, 232 (D.D.C. 2012) ).12 Thus, the overarchi......
  • Blank v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 19-3645 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 17 Julio 2021
    ...framework 'represent the appropriate level of compensation, regardless of the timing of the attack," Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 437 F. Supp. 3d 15, 60 (D.D.C. 2020) (quoting Oveissi I, 768 F. Supp. 2d at 30 n.12), and that "pain and suffering and solatium damages are both designed t......
  • Akins v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 17-675 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 16 Julio 2021
    ...in Akins—that "pain and suffering and solatium damages are both designed to be fully compensatory." Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 437 F. Supp. 3d 15, 60 (D.D.C. 2020) (Contreras, J.) (quoting Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic, 908 F. Supp. 2d 216, 232 (D.D.C. 2012)).12 Thus, the overarchin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 cases
  • Ackley v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action 20-cv-621 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 12 Agosto 2022
    ...to be fully compensatory” and prejudgment interest is therefore unwarranted. 332 F.Supp.3d at 46; see Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 437 F.Supp.3d 15, 60 (D.D.C. 2020) (Contreras, J.) (quoting Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic, 908 F.Supp.2d 216, 232 (D.D.C. 2012)); see Doe v. Democratic Pe......
  • Akins v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 17-675 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 16 Julio 2021
    ...and suffering and solatium damages are both designed to be fully compensatory." 549 F.Supp.3d 122 Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran , 437 F. Supp. 3d 15, 60 (D.D.C. 2020) (Contreras, J.) (quoting Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic , 908 F. Supp. 2d 216, 232 (D.D.C. 2012) ).12 Thus, the overarchi......
  • Blank v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 19-3645 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 17 Julio 2021
    ...framework 'represent the appropriate level of compensation, regardless of the timing of the attack," Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 437 F. Supp. 3d 15, 60 (D.D.C. 2020) (quoting Oveissi I, 768 F. Supp. 2d at 30 n.12), and that "pain and suffering and solatium damages are both designed t......
  • Akins v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 17-675 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 16 Julio 2021
    ...in Akins—that "pain and suffering and solatium damages are both designed to be fully compensatory." Barry v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 437 F. Supp. 3d 15, 60 (D.D.C. 2020) (Contreras, J.) (quoting Wyatt v. Syrian Arab Republic, 908 F. Supp. 2d 216, 232 (D.D.C. 2012)).12 Thus, the overarchin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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