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Prevatt v. Islamic Republic of Iran

March 27, 2006

VICTORIA PREVATT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

This case arises from the October 23, 1983 terrorist attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Plaintiff, the sister of a serviceman killed in the bombing, alleges that defendants are liable for damages resulting therefrom because they provided material support and assistance to Hezbollah, the terrorist organization that orchestrated the bombing. As such, defendants are subject to suit under the terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(7).

In plaintiff's initial complaint, filed on September 9, 2002, she brought suit on her own behalf, as well as on behalf of her brother's estate, against four named defendants: the Islamic Republic of Iran ("Iran"), the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (the "MOIS"), the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (the "IRGC"), and Hizballah. On July 14, 2003, after service on three defendants -- Iran, the MOIS and the IRGC -- was completed through diplomatic channels and those defendants failed to respond or enter an appearance, default was entered against them. An evidentiary hearing on the issue of liability was held on January 16, 2004. As to damages, a court-appointed special master filed a report on December 1, 2003. Plaintiff submitted her Proposed Findings of Fact & Conclusions of Law on May 20, 2004.

On December 15, 2004, in light of recent decisions by the Court of Appeals for this Circuit, plaintiff submitted, upon leave of the Court, an amended complaint reflecting that the suit was brought solely in her personal capacity against just two of the initially named defendants, Iran and the IRGC, and asserted claims based on intentional infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages. Despite plaintiff's attempts, she was unable to serve the amended complaint on either defendant. This Court finds that service of the amended complaint is not necessary. As compared to the initial complaint, the amended complaint removed the designation of plaintiff as administrator of her brother's estate, deleted the wrongful death count, and changed the solatium count to an intentional infliction of emotional distress count. Even were these changes characterized as substantive, Iran and the IRGC had fair notice of the allegations and relief sought, because the amended complaint simply deleted some of the references and information that was contained in the initial complaint. See Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 370 F. Supp. 2d 218, 225 (D.D.C. 2005) (Bates, J.) (noting that only "additions to a complaint [which are] substantial" might warrant the service of an amended complaint). Accordingly, this Court will not require plaintiff to serve the amended complaint.

As to the effect of recent changes in law, the Court directed plaintiff to brief the effect of intervening case law, and she filed a memorandum to that effect on January 3, 2006. She also subsequently submitted, on January 13, 2006, amended Proposed Findings of Fact & Conclusions of Law.

Plaintiff's liability claims are supported by the evidence presented in the evidentiary hearing, including this Court's judicial notice of findings made in a prior case arising from the same attack, Peterson v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 264 F. Supp. 2d 46 (D.D.C. 2003) (Lamberth, J.). Plaintiff's personal damages claims are supported by the Report of the Special Master, which includes a deposition of plaintiff and other documentary evidence. Based on all of the evidence presented, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law and will, consistent with them, enter default judgment in favor of plaintiff and against defendants Iran and the IRGC.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Plaintiff Victoria Prevatt-Wood was born in Columbus, Georgia. (Victoria Prevatt-Wood Dep. 5.) She is an American citizen who is domiciled in Georgia. (Id. at 4, 5.)

2. Ms. Prevatt-Wood's brother, Victor Mark Prevatt ("Mark Prevatt"), was also a United States citizen. On October 23, 1983, he was a member of the United States Marine Corps stationed in Beirut, Lebanon. (Victoria Prevatt-Wood Dep. 8-9.)

3. On October 23, 1983, members of the terrorist group Hezbollah carried out an attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Peterson, 264 F. Supp. 2d at 56. Mark Prevatt was killed in the attack.

4. The attack was the culmination of careful planning by defendant the IRGC and Hezbollah, Peterson, 264 F. Supp. 2d at 55-56, acting on directions by defendant Iran, id. at 54.

5. Defendant Iran "is a foreign state and has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism pursuant to section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (50 U.S.C.A. § 2405(j)) continuously since January 19, 1984." Flatow v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 999. F. Supp. 1, 11, ¶ 19 (D.D.C. 1998) (Lamberth, J.). Iran was designated a state sponsor of terrorism largely because of the October 23, 1984 attack. Kenneth Katzman, Iran: Current Developments and U.S. Policy, Congressional Research Service, January 14, 2000, at 6 (noting that, "based largely on evidence of Iran's involvement in the October 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon," Iran was designated as a state sponsor of terrorism on January 19, 1984.).

6. "Hezbollah is largely under Iranian orders. It's almost entirely acting . . . under the order of the Iranians and being financed almost entirely by the Iranians." Peterson, 264 F. Supp. 2d at 51.

7. "[I]t is beyond question that Hezbollah and its agents received massive material and technical support from the Iranian government." Id. at 58.

8. Defendants Iran and the IRGC conspired to provide material support and resources to Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(7), which caused the death of Mark Prevatt.

9. Mark Prevatt's death was caused by a willful and deliberate act of extra-judicial killing because the explosion was caused by a bomb that was deliberately driven into the barracks by a member of Hezbollah acting under the direction of defendants Iran and the IRGC.

10. Ms. Prevatt-Wood was eight years old at the time of her brother's death. (Special Master's Rep. 2.) Mark Prevatt was eleven years older than Ms. Prevatt-Wood. (Victoria Prevatt-Wood Dep. 5.) Mark Prevatt, Victoria Prevatt-Wood and another brother grew up together with their mother in Columbus, Georgia. (Id. at 6.)

11. After their parents divorced, Mark Prevatt assumed a figurehead position in the house. (Id. at 6-7.) He took on a fatherly role with respect to his younger siblings. (Id. at 7.)

12. At the age of 17, Mark Prevatt enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. (Id. at 8-9.) While in the Marines, Mark Prevatt corresponded with his family, occasionally by telephone, but more often by handwritten letters. ...


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