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Brewer v. Islamic Republic of Iran

October 15, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge


On September 20, 1984, a suicide bomber drove a truck packed with explosives through the gates of the United States Embassy Annex building in East Beirut, Lebanon, killing fourteen people and wounding thirty-five. The attack was carried out by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization that operates in Lebanon.*fn1 This action has been brought by a surviving victim of the attack, Richard Paul Brewer, and his mother, Joyce Louise Leydet. Plaintiffs allege that defendants, the Islamic Republic of Iran ("Iran"), the Ministry of Information and Security of Iran ("MOIS"), and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ("IRGC"), provided "material support and resources" for Hezbollah's attack and, therefore, have waived their sovereign immunity under the "state sponsor of terrorism" exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (the "FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1602-1611. Plaintiffs argue that defendants, having been stripped of immunity, are liable under federal law for causing personal injuries. In this motion for default judgment, plaintiffs are seeking $12 million in compensatory damages for Mr. Brewer, $3.5 million in compensatory damages for Ms. Leydet, and $300 million in punitive damages.*fn2

Plaintiffs initiated this action on March 28, 2008, and effected service on December 7, 2008, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1608(a)(4). Defendants failed to respond, and the Clerk of Court entered a default on April 6, 2009. Before plaintiffs can be awarded any relief, this Court must determine whether plaintiffs have established their claims "by evidence satisfactory to the court." 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e); see also Roeder v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 333 F.3d 228, 232 (D.C. Cir. 2003).*fn3 In evaluating plaintiffs' claims, the Court "may accept [plaintiffs'] uncontroverted evidence as true and may rely on sworn affidavits." Campuzano v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 281 F. Supp. 2d 258, 268 (D.D.C. 2003). The Court is not required to hold an evidentiary hearing, see Bodoff v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 424 F. Supp. 2d 74, 78 (D.D.C. 2006), and "may take judicial notice of related proceedings and records in cases before the same court." Salazar v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 370 F. Supp. 2d 105, 109 n.6 (D.D.C. 2005). Based on the record herein, and relying upon related cases involving the same incident and defendants, this Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.



This action arises from the terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy Annex building in East Beirut, Lebanon on September 20, 1984. On that morning, a suicide bomber in a station wagon drove up a hill toward the Embassy, avoiding several concrete barriers designed to prevent such an approach. See Wagner v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 172 F. Supp. 2d 128, 132 (D.D.C. 2001). The driver refused orders to stop and the vehicle was fired upon by Lebanese National Guards and British bodyguards escorting the British Ambassador. Id. The driver was hit before reaching the underground garage, which was his presumed destination because it would have caused even more devastating damage to the building. Id. Nevertheless, the bomb exploded and "demolished the embassy building," killing two U.S. servicemen, twelve Lebanese nationals, and wounding sixty other people. Id.

When the bomb detonated, plaintiff Richard Paul Brewer, a United States Marine, was on guard duty on the second floor of the compound. (Brewer Decl. ¶¶ 18-19).*fn4 When he heard gunshots and yelling, he stood up to investigate. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 19.) After hearing more gunshots and a car engine revving, he headed for the balcony and yelled for people in his vicinity to get down. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 19.) At the moment he set foot on the balcony, the vehicle outside exploded. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 20.)

Brewer was knocked unconscious by the blast for 30-45 minutes. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 21.) When he finally came to, he went to the third floor to look for two of his friends who were also servicemen at the Embassy--Mike Wagner and Ken Welch. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 23.)*fn5 Brewer found Welch and Wagner lying on the floor and approached them to offer assistance. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 23.) However, he immediately discovered that Welch was dead and Wagner was unconscious and covered with blood. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 23.) As Brewer was thinking of the best way to get Wagner to safety, Wagner died in front of him. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 23.) Though he "felt a tremendous shock and sense of rage building up" at the loss of his friends, Brewer seized upon his training and went back downstairs to help with the rescue effort. (Brewer Decl. ¶¶ 23-24.) In awarding Brewer the Navy Achievement Medal for his actions in the aftermath of the blast, the Navy described what happened next.

Despite being badly wounded and badly shaken, Sergeant [Brewer], with utter disregard for his own safety, courageously began evacuating the most severely wounded from the dangerous, unstable building. He then took up a security post outside the building and refused to be relieved until he was ordered to the hospital for treatment. Realizing the myriad tasks led [sic] to be done in the wake of the bombing, Sergeant [Brewer] insisted on immediately returning to duty, tirelessly assisting his fellow Marines in the clean up efforts for three sleepless days. Sergeant [Brewer]'s boundless endurance, deep sense of responsibility, and selfless dedication to duty reflected credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 27, Ex. A). In addition to the Navy Achievement Medal, Brewer also received a Superior Honor Award from the United States Department of State (Brewer Decl. ¶ 27, Ex. B) and a Purple Heart for his injuries. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 27, Ex. C.)

A. Extent of Brewer's Injuries

Brewer suffered both physical and mental injuries that have persisted to this day. As a direct result of the attack, Brewer twice lost consciousness (Brewer Decl. ¶ 21) and sustained numerous cuts, contusions, and lacerations, but no broken bones. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 25.) His immediate treatment consisted of blood transfusions, intravenous re-hydration therapy, and stitches. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 26.) After spending three days assisting in the recovery efforts, he was airlifted to a U.S. military hospital in Germany where he was treated for intense headaches and ringing in the ears, symptoms commonly associated with blast injuries. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 28.) Brewer fulfilled the rest of his military obligations in Quantico, Virginia for another year and was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in September 1985. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 29.)

Upon returning home to the United States, Brewer felt anxious, depressed, and jittery so he isolated himself and became dependent on alcohol. (Brewer ¶ 30.) He was unable to stop thinking about the friends he lost in the terrorist attack. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 30.) He took some criminal justice courses in hopes of becoming an FBI or Secret Service agent, but dropped out of classes because he was bored and restless. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 31.) He then enrolled in the State Police Academy of Massachusetts and became a State Trooper in 1988, eventually being promoted to detective. (Brewer Decl. ¶¶ 31-33). In 1990, he married and moved out of his mother's home. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 32.)

Despite enjoying his work as a detective, Brewer was drinking heavily and having problems in his marriage. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 34.) Because of an inability to control his "dangerous or inappropriate" impulses, he was forced to resign from his job and his marriage ended in a divorce. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 35.) He found work as a private security guard, but continued to feel isolated. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 36.) He struggled to resist impulses to use his firearm inappropriately and worried that minor disputes would cause him to use the weapon. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 36.) For those reasons, he left the security business and got a degree in special education and history in 1997. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 37.) He had an urge to return to Beirut to teach history, but the experience was not what he expected. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 38-39.) Brewer left Beirut and upon his return to United States, he met his current wife. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 38-39.) Brewer now has two children and has found work as a high school history teacher in Portland, Maine. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 39-40.)

Despite "establish[ing] a normal family life in [his] community," Brewer has continued to experience pain and suffering as a result of the terrorist attack in 1984. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 41.) He still suffers from depression, excessive drinking, lack of impulse control, inability to concentrate, headaches, and ringing in the ears. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 42.) In the mid-1990's, Brewer was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but did not seek serious treatment for it until 2007 when he realized that he "owed it" to his wife and children. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 45.) He suffers from constant back pain and migraine headaches although these physical ailments are secondary to the psychological stress he continues to endure. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 46.) He suffers from nightmares and must be constantly careful not to let his "inner rage" erupt during minor confrontations. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 46.) He numbs his pains with alcohol, but is worried that his behavior is taking its toll on his wife and family. (Brewer Decl. ¶ 47.)

In 2009, Dr. Benjamin C. Grasso, a Board-certified psychiatrist with the Veterans Administration in Saco, Maine examined Brewer. Dr. Grasso found that Brewer displays evidence of "hypervigilance," including darting eyes, checking for exits, exaggerated reactions to quiet everyday sounds occurring in the outdoor hallway, constant foot tapping, and an overall sense of restlessness. (Grasso Decl. ¶ 10.) Brewer also continues to endure "hyperarousal, emotional numbing and avoidance, nightmares, daytime flashbacks, impulsivity, terror mixed with rage, impaired short term memory, impaired concentration, migraine headaches, lability of mood, and an inability to enjoy the usual circumstances of family life, social life, and employment because of [PTSD] and Traumatic Brain Injury." (Grasso Decl. ¶ 12.) These symptoms will never disappear (Grasso Decl. ¶ 13), and Brewer "may be on the verge of significant further deterioration in functioning or even a break down." (Grasso Decl. ¶ 14.)

Dr. Edgar Garcia-Rill, a Professor in the Departments of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences, and Psychiatry, at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, reviewed Brewer's medical records and concluded that Brewer "suffers from severe [PTSD] which . . . severely limit[s] his ability to enjoy the normal pleasures and satisfactions of everyday life." (Garcia-Rill Rep. at 3, attached as Exhibit 6 to Pl.'s Mot.) He shows symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury, "which adds to and exacerbates his difficulties." (Garcia-Rill Rep. at 3.) His symptoms are further worsened by "survivor's guilt" [from] discovering the bodies of two of his closest friends who were [killed] in the blast." (Garcia-Rill Rep. at 3.) Dr. Garcia-Rill concluded that "beyond any reasonable doubt, these deficits and impairments are caused by Mr. Brewer's exposure to the bomb blast caused by the terrorist attack in Beirut of September 20, 1984." (Garcia-Rill Rep. at 3.) Brewer's future is characterized as "severely limited" and the chances of other illnesses, such as accelerated aging and alcoholism, will increase over time. (Garcia-Rill Rep. at 3.) Brewer is currently rated as 70% disabled as a result of his PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Garcia-Rill Rep., Ex. C)

B. Extent of Leydet's Injuries

Joyce Louise Leydet, Brewer's mother, also seeks damages for her pain and suffering. She is, and has always been, a United States citizen. (Leydet Decl. ¶ 3.) Richard Brewer was her youngest of seven children, and Ms. Leydet described him as "joyful" and "happy-go-lucky" in high school. (Leydet Decl. ¶ 5.) When Ms. Leydet heard the news of the terrorist bombing on television, she saw images of someone in a marine uniform covered in blood and believed it was her son. (Leydet Decl. ¶ 10.) Later that night, a Marine recruiter came to her house and informed her that Brewer was injured, although he could not describe the nature of his injuries. (Leydet Decl. ¶ 11.) Leydet recalls this period of not knowing her son's condition as a "terrible ordeal of anxiety and worry" for herself and her family. (Leydet Decl. ¶ 13.) Brewer called three days later to inform his mother that he was wounded but recovering. (Leydet Decl. ¶ 14.) When Brewer returned from overseas, he "was never really the same" according to Ms. Leydet. (Leydet Decl. ¶ 16.) He screamed when he heard a car backfire on the street, (Leydet Decl. ¶ 16), was "moody and silent for long periods," and seemed "depressed and anxious." (Leydet Decl. ¶ 17.)

Ms. Leydet describes her life since the bombing as being "saddened and deeply and negatively impacted by the physical and psychological trauma" inflicted on her son. (Leydet Decl. ΒΆ 21.) She "especially feel[s] the loss of [her] happy, healthy young son, who seemed to have limitless possibilities before him, and who has been replaced by a different Richard who has to struggle to get through each day." (Leydet ...

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