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WEINSTEIN v. THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN

February 6, 2002

SUSAN WEINSTEIN, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION

This wrongful death action against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security, and three senior officials of the Iranian government arises from an act of state-sponsored terrorism. The decedent, a United States citizen named Ira Weinstein, was killed in the terrorist bombing of the Number 18 Egged passenger bus in Jerusalem, Israel on February 25, 1996. The plaintiffs, who are family members and administrators of Ira Weinstein's estate, have brought this action pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA") of 1976, 28 U.S.C. § 1602-1611.

The FSIA grants federal courts jurisdiction over suits involving foreign states and their officials, agents, and employees in certain enumerated instances. In particular, the FSIA creates a federal cause of action for personal injury or wrongful death resulting from acts of state-sponsored terrorism. 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e) (giving federal courts jurisdiction over suits "in which money damages are sought against a foreign state for personal injury or death that was caused by an act of torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage, hostage taking, or the provision of material support or resources . . . for such an act if such act or provision of material support is engaged in by an official, employee, or agent of such foreign state while acting within the scope of his or her office, employment, or agency[.]"). The statute explicitly eliminates foreign governments' sovereign immunity in suits for money damages based on extrajudicial killings and provides that "[a]n official, employee, or agent of a foreign state designated as a state sponsor of terrorism . . . shall be liable to a United States national or the national's legal representatives for personal injury or death caused by acts . . . for which the courts of the United States may maintain jurisdiction[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(7); 28 U.S.C. § 1605 note, Civil Liability for Acts of State Sponsored Terrorism.

It is worth noting that two recent cases before this Court that were brought under the FSIA involved the same terrorist bombing that killed Ira Weinstein. In Eisenfeld v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 172 F. Supp.2d 1 (D.D.C. 2000), and Mousa v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action Number 00-2096 (WBB), this Court held the same defendants in the present case jointly and severally liable for the deaths of two other American citizens, Matthew Eisenfeld and Sara Rachel Duker, and for the injuries sustained by Leah Mousa. All three individuals, like Ira Weinstein, were aboard the Number 18 Egged bus when it was bombed on February 25, 1996.

The defendants, despite being properly served with process pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1608, have failed to enter an appearance in this matter. As a result, the Court entered default against the defendants on July 16, 2001, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a). Notwithstanding indicia of the defendants' willful default, however, the Court is compelled to make further inquiry prior to entering a judgment by default against them. As with actions against the federal government, the FSIA requires that a default judgment against a foreign state be entered only after a plaintiff "establishes his claim or right to relief that is satisfactory to the Court." 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e).

Accordingly, the Court has engaged in a careful review of the evidence presented in this case, in light of Eisenfeld, Mousa, and the other reported cases brought under the antiterrorism provisions of the FSIA. Wagner v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 172 F. Supp.2d 128 (D.D.C. 2001); Jenco v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 154 F. Supp.2d 27 (D.D.C. 2001); Sutherland v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 151 F. Supp.2d 27 (D.D.C. 2001); Daliberti v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 146 F. Supp.2d 19 (D.D.C. 2001); Elahi v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 124 F. Supp.2d 97 (D.D.C. 2000); Anderson v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 90 F. Supp.2d 107 (D.D.C. 2000); Cicippio v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 18 F. Supp.2d 62 (D.D.C 1998); Flatow v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 999 F. Supp. 1 (D.D.C. 1998); Alejandre v. Republic of Cuba, 996 F. Supp. 1239 (S.D.Fla. 1997). Based upon the extensive evidence presented by the plaintiffs, the Court concludes that they have established their claim and right to relief as set forth below.

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

The Court heard testimony in this matter on December 6 and 7, 2001. The plaintiffs proceeded in the manner of a bench trial and the following findings of fact are based upon the sworn testimony and documents entered into evidence in accordance with the Federal Rules of Evidence. Plaintiffs have "established [their] claim or right to relief by evidence that is satisfactory to the Court," as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e). The Court finds the following facts to be established by clear and convincing evidence, which would have been sufficient to establish a prima facie case in a contested proceeding.

(1) Ira William Weinstein was born on December 4, 1942, in the United States of America. He was a United States citizen from the time of his birth until his death on April 13, 1996.

(2) Plaintiff Susan Weinstein is the widow of decedent Ira Weinstein. She is, and at all relevant times was, a citizen of the United States. She brings this action in her own right, as Co-Administrator of the Estate of Ira Weinstein, and as the natural guardian of plaintiff David Weinstein.

(3) Plaintiff Jeffrey A. Miller, who is also a citizen of the United States, brings this action as Co-Administrator of the Estate of Ira Weinstein.

(4) Plaintiff Joseph Weinstein is the son of decedent Ira Weinstein. He is, and at all relevant times was, a citizen of the United States.

(5) Plaintiff Jennifer Weinstein Hazi is the daughter of decedent Ira Weinstein. She is, and at all relevant times was, a citizen of the United States.

(6) Plaintiff David Weinstein is the son of decedent Ira Weinstein. He is, and at all relevant times was, a citizen of the United States.

(7) Ira Weinstein, who had served in the United States Navy, worked as a butcher for the Supersol supermarket chain in Israel at the time of his death.

(8) On February 25, 1996, Ira Weinstein boarded the Number 18 Egged bus in Jerusalem, Israel to go to work.

(9) At approximately 6:45 a.m. Jerusalem time, while Ira Weinstein was still aboard, Magid Wardah, another passenger, detonated an explosive charge which, at the direction of HAMAS, he had carried onto the bus concealed in a travel bag. The ensuing explosion caused the complete destruction of the bus, resulted in debris being hurled in excess of 100 meters, and led to the injury and death of numerous individuals, including Ira Weinstein. Nails were placed in the bomb so that it would cause even more injuries than a typical bomb would inflict.

(10) Medical personnel evacuated Ira Weinstein from the site of the bombing to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Doctors treated Ira Weinstein in the emergency room of the hospital for 1 2 hours and then admitted him into the intensive care unit, where he stayed until his death on April 13, 1996.

(11) Despite all of his injuries, which are detailed below, Ira Weinstein was conscious upon arrival at the hospital, and remained at least semi-conscious for the ...


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