Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Abdulwahab Nattah v. George W. Bush

March 18, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge



This action arises from alleged breaches of contract and violations of both the United States Constitution and international law by a private U.S. corporation and several federal officials. Plaintiff Abdulwahab Nattah alleges that L-3 Services, Inc.*fn1 ("L-3 Services") breached a contract for employment as an interpreter in Kuwait and subsequently sold him as a slave to the United States Army. Mr. Nattah further alleges that various United States entities unlawfully detained him and forced him to work as an interpreter and soldier in Iraq without compensation before dishonorably discharging him, and that the government has subsequently refused to recognize him as a veteran and grant him veterans benefits and back-pay. Almost four years ago, Mr. Nattah filed a Complaint asserting claims for violations of the Constitution and international law, breach of contract, and failure to provide benefits as required under U.S. law against L-3 Services and several government entities-including then-President George W. Bush, then-Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Six Unknown United States Government Employees (collectively, the "federal defendants"). This Court subsequently dismissed all of plaintiff's claims and denied his motion to amend the Complaint to include claims against Francis J. Harvey, the former Secretary of the Army. On appeal, the D. C. Circuit reversed and remanded limited portions of this Court's dismissal, holding that (1) plaintiff should be permitted to amend the Complaint and pursue a limited number of claims against the Secretary of the Army and (2) this Court had improperly dismissed the breach of contract claim against L-3 Services. Now on remand, both federal defendants and defendant L-3 Services have again moved to dismiss plaintiff's action. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will GRANT both motions.


A. Factual History

The alleged history from which this action arises is set forth more fully in this Court's original opinion dismissing the case, Nattah v. Bush, 541 F. Supp. 2d 223, 226--28 (D.D.C. 2008) ("Nattah I"), and will only be briefly restated here. Mr. Nattah, a dual citizen of the United States and Libya, First Amended Complaint ¶ 13, Mar. 31, 2008 [68] ("FAC"), alleges that he traveled to Virginia to interview for a position as a translator with L-3 Services sometime in early 2003. Id. at ¶¶ 19, 92. While at his interview and orientation, plaintiff was offered a job as a translator in Kuwait. Id. at ¶¶ 22, 94. Mr. Nattah alleges that he reached an oral agreement with agents of L-3 Services in which he would work only in Kuwait, receive three meals a day, be given an air-conditioned apartment to live in, be kept out of war zones, and could only be fired for misconduct or a lack of work resulting from L-3 Services' potential inability to operate as a contractor on behalf of the United States in the region. Id. at ¶¶ 22, 94--95, 281--82; see also Nattah v. Bush, 605 F.3d 1052, 1057 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (noting that complaint sets forth "[an] alleged oral contract") ("Nattah II").*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that he accepted the agreement with L-3 Services only after careful consideration of these conditions. FAC ¶¶ 96, 98.

After reaching an agreement with L-3 Services, plaintiff traveled to Kuwait, where he spent two weeks visiting various remote operating locations before being permanently set up at a site called "Camp Virginia," where he had "no running water, no general plumbing, and did not receive three meals per day." Id. at ¶ 24; see also id. at ¶ 99 (stating that encampment "did not include phone, mail, air-conditioning, running water, or electricity"). Plaintiff alleges that after approximately two months in Kuwait working for L-3 Services, he was taken to Iraq by the "United States Military" with L-3 Services' "knowledge and approval," id. at ¶¶ 25, 103; see also id. at ¶ 101 (alleging L-3 Services "sold plaintiff as a slave to the military"), and in violation of the company's prior assurance that Mr. Nattah would only work in Kuwait. Id. at ¶ 93. Plaintiff alleges that these actions were the result of a intentional plot on behalf of L-3 Services to provide the United States with interpreters in the region during the run-up to the war in Iraq. See id. at ¶¶ 91, 94. For the next several months, according to plaintiff, "the United States Military forced [him] to travel with them and translate various Arabic documents, teach soldiers Arabic language, and communicate with local intelligence." Id. at ¶ 29. Plaintiff also alleges that the military frequently put him in danger, id. at ¶¶ 32, 103, and that on one trip through an "active war zone" he suffered severe nerve damage and significant hearing loss when a mortar shell exploded near the vehicle in which he was traveling. Id. at ¶¶ 27, 112. A base physician who examined Mr. Nattah subsequently sent him to Germany for medical care. Id. at ¶¶ 34--35, 113. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Nattah was discharged from the military, id. at ¶¶ 114, 117, and since his discharge, plaintiff alleges that the government has consistently refused to provide veterans benefits or recognize his service, despite having classified plaintiff "as an E-4 (Corporal) in the United States Army." Id. at ¶¶ 110, 115, 146, 148, 150.

B. Procedural History

Relying on these allegations, plaintiff filed his claims in Spring of 2006. Complaint, Apr. 19, 2006 [1]. Plaintiff's original Complaint set forth twenty separate claims for relief, centered principally upon (1) the allegations that defendant L-3 Services violated the employment contract by failing to provide Mr. Nattah the benefits he was promised and then selling him into slavery to the United States Army, and (2) his allegations that federal defendants violated his legal and constitutional rights by detaining him, forcing him into dangerous war zones, prohibiting him from leaving the area, and-after his return to the United States-refusing to recognize his service and award him veterans benefits and back-pay. See generally id.

In late 2006, federal defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's claims on the ground that they are immune from suit under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Federal Defendants' Motion to Dismiss 5--14, Oct. 30, 2006 [22]. After plaintiff failed to respond despite an extension of time, the Court dismissed all claims against federal defendants. Order Granting Motion to Dismiss by Federal Defendants, Jan. 30, 2007 [32]. A few months later, defendant L-3 Services also moved to dismiss the suit on several grounds. Defendant L-3 Communications Titan Corporation's Motion to Dismiss, Mar. 12, 2007 [38]. After that motion was fully briefed, plaintiff sought leave to amend the Complaint to add new allegations against L-3 Services and federal defendants, and to assert claims against several new defendants, including the Secretary of the Army. Motion for Leave to File 1st Amended Complaint 4--9, Nov. 28, 2007 [47]. In that same motion, plaintiff asked the Court to reconsider its earlier dismissal of the claims against federal defendants. Id. at 10--14.

By Memorandum Opinion in early 2008, the Court granted and denied in part plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint, denied plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, and granted L-3 Services' motion to dismiss in its entirety. Nattah I, 541 F. Supp. 2d at 226. First, the Court found that plaintiff failed to identify any developments or new evidence warranting reconsideration of its original dismissal of federal defendants. Id. at 232. Second, the Nattah I Court granted plaintiff's motion for leave to amend the Complaint as to allegations concerning L-3 Services, id. at 228, denied plaintiff's motion as to the Secretary of Defense because that defendant had been previously dismissed, id. at 228--30, denied plaintiff's motions concerning the proposed Iraqi defendants because those allegations failed to state a claim upon which relief might be granted, id. at 231, and denied plaintiff's motion to add claims against the Secretary of the Army because "[t]he amended complaint makes no specific allegations against Secretary Harvey that are distinguishable from those asserted against the other federal defendants. . . . [and thus] would not survive a motion to dismiss." Id. at 231--32. Finally, the Court granted defendant L-3 Services' motion to dismiss as to all claims. With respect to the claim for breach of contract, the Court relied on an offer letter signed by plaintiff stating that the employment relationship between L-3 Services and Mr. Nattah was an at-will agreement. Id. at 236.*fn3 The Court then entered final judgment in favor of all defendants. Order, Mar. 31, 2008 [67].

Plaintiff appealed the dismissal, and last year the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, while affirming the majority of this Court's Nattah I opinion, reversed two of this Court's holdings. Nattah II, 605 F.3d at 1054. First, the Court explained that "section 702 of the Administrative Procedure Act . . . waiv[es] sovereign immunity for claims seeking relief other than money damages and stating a claim" against an agency or agency official. Id. at 1056 (quotations omitted). Thus, because the FAC contains claims for various forms of non-monetary relief, the D.C. Circuit held that this Court erred in stopping plaintiff from amending his complaint to set forth non-monetary claims against the Secretary of the Army, as they would not be barred by sovereign immunity. Id. at 1056--57. Second, with respect to plaintiff's breach of contract claim against L-3 Services, the Court of Appeals observed that "the fact Nattah signed an offer letter from L-3 is not necessarily inconsistent with the existence of an oral contract," id. at 1057, and held that "[m]odification of an at-will employment contract does not extinguish either the employee's original contract or his right to sue for its breach." Id. at 1058. On the basis of these determinations, the D.C. Circuit concluded-notwithstanding the contradictory allegations concerning contract formation and execution in the FAC-that "Nattah's complaint states a claim against L-3 Services for breach of its oral contract with Nattah." Id. The Court of Appeals then remanded the case with instructions to proceed with "Nattah's non-monetary claims against the Secretary of the Army and his breach of contract claim against L-3" Services. Id. at 1059.

On remand, defendant L-3 Services and federal defendants-on behalf of the Secretary of the Army-moved to dismiss the FAC. See, e.g., Defendant L-3 Services, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment, Sep. 17, 2010 [75] ("L-3 Mtn."); Federal Defendants' Renewed Motion to Dismiss, Sep. 17, 2010 [76] ("Fed Mtn."). A month later, plaintiff filed his oppositions to both motions, see, e.g., Opposition to L-3 Services, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss, Oct. 25, 2010 [80] ("P's L-3 Opp."); Reply to Federal Defendants' Motion, Oct. 12, 2010 [77] ("P's Fed. Opp."); in addition, plaintiff filed a document styled as a motion and titled "Collateral Estoppels, Waiver, Law of the Case." Motion for Miscellaneous Relief, Oct. 12, 2010 [78] ("P's Mtn."). Defendants then submitted reply briefings in which they also addressed the points raised by plaintiff's ancillary motion. See, e.g., Defendant L-3 Services, Inc.'s Reply in Support of its Motion to Dismiss, Nov. 1, 2010 [83] ("L-3 Reply"); Federal Defendants' Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition to Their Renewed Motion to Dismiss, Nov. 3, 2010 [85] ("Fed. Reply"). Having been fully briefed, the Court now turns to the merits of the dispute.


A. Rule 12(b)(1)

Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994), and a Rule 12(b)(1) motion for dismissal presents a threshold challenge to a court's jurisdiction. Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987). In evaluating such a motion, the Court must "accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint," Wilson v. District of Columbia, 269 F.R.D. 8, 11 (D.D.C. 2010) (citing Leatherman v. Tarrant Cnty. Narcotics Intel. & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993)), and should review the complaint liberally while accepting all inferences favorable to the plaintiff. Barr v. Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199 (D.C. Cir. 2004). At the same time, the Court may consider relevant materials outside the pleadings, Settles v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 429 F.3d 1098, 1107 (D.C. Cir. 2005), and must remain cognizant that "the plaintiff's factual allegations in the complaint will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim." Wilson, 269 F.R.D. at 11 (quotations omitted). In defending against a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction exists. Khadr v. United States, 529 F.3d 1112, 1115 (D.C. Cir. 2008).

B. Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). To satisfy this test, a complaint must contain "a short and plaint statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint," Atherton v. District of Columbia, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009), and grant a plaintiff "the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). However, a court may not "accept inferences drawn by plaintiffs if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). In other words, "only a complaint that states a ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.