Estate of Heiser v. Islamic Republic of Iran

Decision Date22 December 2006
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 00-2329 (RCL).,Civil Action No. 01-2104(RCL).
Citation466 F.Supp.2d 229
PartiesESTATE of Michael HEISER, et al., Plaintiffs, v. ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, et al., Defendants. Estate of Millard D. Campbell, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Shale D. Stiller, Elizabeth Renee Dewey, DLA Peper Rudnick Gray Cary U.S. LLP, Washington, DC, Melissa Lea Mackiewicz, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary U.S. LLP, Baltimore, MD, for Plaintiffs.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

LAMBERTH, District Judge.

BACKGROUND

These actions arise from the June 25, 1996 bombing at Khobar Towers, a residence on a United States military base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The plaintiffs in this consolidated action are the family members and estates of 17 of the 19 servicemen killed in the attack. Plaintiffs allege that the Islamic Republic of Iran ("Iran"), the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security ("MOIS"), the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp ("IRGC" or "the Pasdaran"), and "John Does 1-99" are liable for damages from the attack because they provided material support and assistance to Hezbollah,1 the terrorist organization that orchestrated and carried out the bombing.2 Plaintiffs have relied upon causes of action founded upon provisions of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"), inter alia, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(7).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In their second amended complaints, plaintiffs named as defendants (1) the Islamic Republic of Iran; (2) the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security ("MOTS"); (3) the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ("IRGC" or "the Pasdaran"); (4) and "John Does 1-99[.]" Second Amended Complaints, ¶ 1; see also id., ¶¶ 24, 25, 27, 29. Plaintiffs sought damages for wrongful death (Count I) survival action (Count II); "economic damages" (Count III); intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV); for plaintiffs Ibis S. Haun, Marie R. Campbell, Shyrl L. Johnson, Katie L. Marthaler and Dawn Woody, loss of consortium (Count V); solatium (Count VI); and "punitive damages" (Count VII).

Plaintiffs requested judgment in their favor against all of the defendants. In addition, the plaintiffs in Civil Action No. 00-2329 sought compensatory damages against all defendants in the amount of $890,000,000, "plus economic damages in an amount to be determined at trial for each of Decedents' Estates"; punitive damages against defendants MOIS, the IRGC and John Does 1-99 in the amount of $500,000,000; and reasonable costs, expenses and attorneys' fees. The plaintiffs in Civil Action No. 01-2104 sought compensatory damages against all defendants in the amount of $3,660,000,000 "plus economic damages in an amount to be determined at trial for each of Decedents' Estates"; punitive damages against defendants MOIS, the IRGC and John Does 1-99 in the amount of $500,000,000; and reasonable costs, expenses and attorneys' fees.

On February 1, 2002, the court (Jackson, J.) consolidated the two civil actions, and in Civil Action No. 00-2329, granted the plaintiffs' motion for entry of default as to defendants Islamic Republic of Iran, MOIS and the IRGC. February 1, 2002 Order (Docket No. 9, Civil Action No. 00-2329) at 1. On February 6, 2002, the Clerk entered a default in Civil Action No. 00-2329 against defendants Islamic Republic of Iran, MOIS and the IRGC. Default (Docket No. 10, Civil Action No. 00-2329). On July 30, 2002, both actions were referred to Magistrate Judge Robinson for all purposes. (July 30, 2002 Order (Docket No. 11) at 1.) On October 4, 2002, Magistrate Judge Robinson granted plaintiffs' motion in Civil Action No. 01-2104 for entry of default as to defendants Islamic Republic of Iran, MOIS and the IRGC. (October 4, 2002 Order (Docket No. 11, Civil Action No. 01-2104) at 1.) On October 8, 2002, the Clerk entered a default in Civil Action No. 01-2104 against defendants Islamic Republic of Iran, MOIS and the IRGC. Default (Docket No. 12, Civil Action No. 01-2104) at 1. On March 14, 2003, plaintiffs moved for a continuance of the hearing on liability and damages. Plaintiffs' counsel represented that counsel "has learned that certain immediate family members of the soldiers killed in the Khobar Towers terrorist attack — family members who have cognizable claims under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (`FSIA') — are not currently named as parties in these consolidated actions." (Motion for Continuance of Trial Date and Request for Scheduling Conference (Docket No. 16) at 2.) Counsel further represented that the firm "is in the process of identifying all such family members and anticipates filing amended complaints within the next several weeks." Id. Magistrate Judge Robinson granted plaintiffs' motion, and, in accordance with the request of plaintiffs' counsel, "tentatively" scheduled the hearing for "the period of December 1, 2003 to December 18, 2003[.]" (March 17, 2003 Order (Docket No. 17) at 1.) Plaintiffs filed their second amended complaints on May 6, 2003.

Upon consideration of plaintiffs' motions to vacate their consent to proceed before a magistrate judge for all purposes and to clarify the purpose of the referral to a magistrate judge, the court re-referred the consolidated civil actions to Magistrate Judge Robinson "to hear and determine pretrial matters as permitted thereby, and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), to conduct hearings, and to submit proposed findings and recommendations for the disposition by the Court of any motion for judgment by default upon the evidence submitted in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e)." (Docket No. [20] at 1-2.) The Court denied plaintiffs' motion for clarification of the referral. (August 22, 2003 Order (Docket No. 25) at 1.) On September 3, 2003, Magistrate Judge Robinson scheduled the hearing on liability and damages for December 1 through December 18, 2003. (September 3, 2003 Order (Docket No. 26) at 1.)

Plaintiffs filed their pretrial statement on October 31, 2003 ((Docket No. 30).) In accordance with Magistrate Judge Robinson's Final Pretrial Order (Docket No. 32), plaintiffs filed a memorandum regarding issues relevant to liability. See Supplemental Bench Memorandum on Liability Issues ("Memorandum on Liability") (Docket No. 33). In the memorandum, plaintiffs stated that they "do not expect to identify [Defendants] John Does 1-99 before the commencement of the trial[,]" and that "[a]ccordingly, Plaintiffs will not seek a finding of liability against the co-conspirators John Does 1-99, who were named as defendants when the complaints in this consolidated action were filed." (Memorandum on Liability at 9.) On November 19, 2003, plaintiffs moved for entry of default against the Islamic Republic of Iran, MOIS and the IRGC. (Plaintiffs' Motion for Entry of Default (Docket No. 38) at 1.) The Court granted the motion. November 26, 2003 Order. (Docket No. 39, Civil Action No. 00-2329; Docket No. 32, Civil Action No. 01-2104.)

Plaintiffs examined witnesses and offered other evidence with respect to liability and damages on December 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 18 and 19, 2003. On December 19, 2003, plaintiffs moved to voluntarily dismiss Defendants "John Does 1-99," and Magistrate Judge Robinson granted the motion. (December 19, 2003 Tr. (Docket No. 128) at 69-70.) The magistrate judge recessed the hearing until February 5, 2004, the earliest date that plaintiffs' counsel, plaintiffs' witnesses and the court were be available to continue. Magistrate Judge Robinson received further evidence on February 5, 6, 9 and 10, 2004.

During the recess in the evidentiary hearing a panel of the District of Columbia Circuit decided Cicippio-Puleo v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 353 F.3d 1024 (D.C.Cir. 2004). Plaintiffs asked that the hearing resume on February 5, 2004 as scheduled. On February 6, 2004, when the schedule for the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing and for closing argument was addressed by Magistrate Judge Robinson, counsel for plaintiffs asked that counsel's closing argument be deferred until counsel filed Plaintiffs' proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Magistrate Judge Robinson ordered that plaintiffs file their proposed findings and conclusions on April 1, 2004, the date proposed by plaintiffs' counsel. Magistrate Judge Robinson scheduled plaintiffs' closing argument for April 15, 2004, the date proposed by Plaintiffs' counsel. On April 9, 2004, Magistrate Judge Robinson postponed the April 15 closing argument, intending to order supplemental briefing of issues relevant to the liability of the remaining defendants.

In light of the D.C. Circuit's opinions in Cicippio-Puleo and Acree v. Republic of Iraq,3 plaintiffs moved to modify the magistrate judge's Final Pretrial Order, or in the alternative to file third amended complaints so as to incorporate claims based in state law. On August 4, 2004, Magistrate Judge Robinson denied plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration; granted plaintiffs' motion for leave to file third amended complaints; and ordered that plaintiffs file the third amended complaints by August 9, 2004. (Aug. 4, 2004 Order (Docket No. 103) at 2-3.)

Plaintiffs filed the third amended complaints on August 4, 2004. Plaintiffs named as defendants in the third amended complaints the Islamic Republic of Iran, the "Iranian Ministry of Information and Security[,]" and the "Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps[.]" Plaintiffs again...

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