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Collett v. Socialist Peoples' Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

August 24, 2006

ELAINE L. COLLETT ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SOCIALIST PEOPLES' LIBYAN ARAB JAMAHIRIYA ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos. 52, 57

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PLAINTIFFS'MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION; DENYING THE DEFENDANTS'MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the parties' motions to reconsider Judge Kay's ruling on sanctions stemming from a discovery dispute between the parties. Judge Kay previously ordered the defendants to provide deponents who could respond to two notices of deposition issued by the plaintiffs. Ruling that the defendants failed to comply with his order, Judge Kay imposed monetary sanctions against the defendants in the amount of $7,000 but declined to impose alternative sanctions. The defendants now ask this court to reconsider Judge Kay's imposition of monetary sanctions, and the plaintiffs ask this court to reconsider Judge Kay's refusal to impose sanctions in the form of preclusion of certain defenses and entry of a default judgment. Because the parties fail to demonstrate that Judge Kay's order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law, the court denies the parties' motions.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Alec Collett, a journalist and British subject, worked for the United Nations Bureau of the Associated Press on assignment with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in 1985. Am. Compl. ¶ 21. In March of that year, the "Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Muslims" (also known as the Abu Nidal Organization) abducted Collett in Beirut, Lebanon.*fn1 Id. ¶¶ 17, 22. While captive, Collett appeared on two videotapes to convey the demands of his captors and to send messages to his family. Id. ¶ 24; Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss ("Defs.' Mot.") at 16 (stating that the terrorists demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners in Great Britain).

On April 15, 1986, the United States and England attacked Libya in retaliation for a bombing in West Berlin that killed American servicemen. Am. Compl. ¶ 25. A few days after the bombing, a videotape of a hanging surfaced with a note stating that the hanged man was Alec Collett "and that he had been executed in retaliation for the United States raid on Libya." Id. ¶ 27. Although the videotape is of poor quality and Alec Collett's remains have not been retrieved, Collett's family believes the videotape is authentic. Id. ¶¶ 27-29. The plaintiffs generally claim that the money, camps, and training provided by Libya, the ESO, and Qadhafi to the Abu Nidal Organization helped bring about the various injuries to and death of Alec Collett. Id. ¶ 19.

B. Procedural History

The plaintiffs filed their first complaint on October 9, 2001. On November 13, 2002, the court granted a motion to stay pending jurisdictional discovery. The defendants moved to dismiss. On March 16, 2004, the court issued an order denying without prejudice the defendants' motion to dismiss and granting the plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint to comply with Cicippio-Puleo v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 353 F.3d 1024 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Thereafter, on April 16, 2004, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint seeking recovery of economic and punitive damages under international law, federal statutory causes of action, and state common-law torts of false imprisonment, wrongful death, survival, loss of consortium and solatium, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. See generally Am. Compl. On May 16, 2004, Libya, Qadhafi, and the ESO filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim. See generally Defs.' Mot. To aid the court in determining the validity of the plaintiffs' claims against Qadhafi, on March 1, 2005, the court requested that the Executive Branch file a suggestion of head-of-state immunity.

The court granted in part and denied in part the defendants motion to dismiss. Awaiting a potentially dispositive statement from the Executive Branch on head-of-state immunity, the court denied without prejudice the defendants' arguments for dismissal of claims against Qadhafi. Mem. Op. (March 24, 2005) at 9. As to the other defendants, the court ordered discovery on whether Libya provided material support to Abu Nidal, holding that the court had personal jurisdiction over Libya and the ESO, and holding that the plaintiffs stated certain claims on which relief could be granted. Id. at 7-8. On November 23, 2005, acting pursuant to a referral by this court, Judge Kay issued a memorandum opinion granting the plaintiffs' motion to compel. Mem. Op. (Nov. 23, 2005). The defendants neither complied with this order nor filed objections to Magistrate Judge Kay's opinion pursuant to Local Rule 72(a). Instead, the defendants appealed directly to the D.C. Circuit.

Judge Kay granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs' motion for sanctions on January 18, 2006. Specifically, Judge Kay imposed monetary sanctions but declined to impose alternative sanctions. Mem. Order (Jan. 18, 2006). On February 2, 2006, after reviewing the plaintiffs' bill of costs, Judge Kay awarded monetary sanctions in the amount of $7,000.00. Both parties ...


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