United States District Court, District of Columbia
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Order and Memorandum Opinion dated August 26, 2019, ECF Nos.
93 & 94, the Court granted default judgment against
Defendant Islamic Republic of Iran as to numerous claims
brought by Plaintiffs either injured in seven
"bellwether" attacks or representing individuals
killed in those attacks brought under the Foreign Sovereign
Immunities Act ("FSIA"). The Court, however,
excepted from its judgment the claims of Evan Kirby, Marvin
Thornsberry, and Johnny Washburn on the basis that Plaintiffs
had not provided sufficient evidence for the Court to
evaluate their claims. See Aug. 26, 2019 Mem. Op.,
ECF No. 95, at 56 n.31, 66n.33, 77, 88-89.
have now provided additional evidence as to these three
individuals, who Plaintiffs allege were harmed in the January
20, 2007 attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center
("PJCC") in Karbala, Iraq. Upon consideration of
Plaintiffs'  Additional Evidence Relating to the
January 20, 2007 Karbala Attack, the exhibits attached
thereto, the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a
whole, the Court shall GRANT default
judgment against Iran as to the claims of Plaintiffs Evan
Kirby, Marvin Thornsberry, and Johnny Washburn. For damages
determinations, the Court has referred the bellwether
Plaintiffs' claims to Special Master Alan L. Balaran, who
shall prepare a report and recommendation to the Court as
outlined in the  Order and Administrative Plan.
Court has previously detailed the background of this suit and
specifically the January 20, 2007 attack on the PJCC in
Karbala. Rather than reiterate every detail, the Court
incorporates and makes a part of this Memorandum Opinion its
prior Memorandum Opinion dated August 26, 2019. The Court
will also outline its findings of fact and law that are
relevant to the three Plaintiffs discussed below.
seven bellwether attacks, the January 20, 2007 attack on the
PJCC was the only one not involving explosively formed
penetrator weapons attributed to Iran. Aug. 26, 2019 Mem.
Op., ECF No. 95, at 54. In addition to analyzing the evidence
put forward by Plaintiffs related to this attack, the Court
also took judicial notice of certain findings by Judge
Randolph Moss in a different case about the same January 20,
2007 attack on the PJCC. See id.; Nov. 28, 2018 Mem.
Op. and Order, ECF No. 66, at 1-4 (citing Fritz v.
Islamic Republic of Iran, 320 F.Supp.3d 48 (D.D.C. 2018)
(Moss, J.)). The Court focused its analysis on the
"expert report and testimony of Michael Pregent, who
considered a number of sources in preparing his report,
including the military's reports of the Karbala attack as
it unfolded, the U.S. Army's formal AR 15-6 Investigation
after the attack, recent testimony in another case by the AR
15-6 investigating officer, and a variety of other
documentation." Aug. 26, 2019 Mem. Op., ECF No. 95, at
55. In addition, the Court examined the Karbala AR 15-6
report itself. Id.; see also U.S. Army Report
Pursuant to AR 15-6, PX-96.
PJCC in Karbala was an Iraqi compound where U.S. forces
collaborated with Iraqi civil authorities, including police,
to strengthen governance of the Karbala Province in central
Iraq." Aug. 26, 2019 Mem. Op., ECF No. 95, at 56. The
Court found that Plaintiff Johnny Washburn was present at
Karbala on January 20, 2007. Id. That evening, at
around 6:00 PM, six SUVs disguised to look like American
security contractor trucks, through either their disguised
appearance or coordination with the Iraqi Police manning the
checkpoints, were permitted to pass the checkpoints and
approach the PJCC facility. Id. at 56-57. The SUVs
were able to push open the metal gate to the compound.
Id. at 57.
inside the facility, one group of assailants attacked the
command room where Mr. Washburn, other Plaintiffs, and other
U.S. Troops were located. Id. at 58. One of the
attackers dressed in an older Army Battle Dress Uniform began
shooting into the room, only to be stopped by an American
soldier trying to push the door closed. Id. at 58.
The assailant kept shooting and threw a grenade into the
room, which Plaintiff Johnathan Millican jumped on top of as
it detonated. Id. The blast killed him. Id.
the assault on the command room was occurring, four U.S.
servicemembers were handcuffed and loaded into the SUVs.
Id. at 59. As the assailants began to withdraw, they
"increased their rate of fire" and tossed a grenade
into the PJCC building, which '"blew the doors in
the hallway off their hinges, '" injuring one
soldier in the command room. Id. (quoting Pregent
Rep. at 23). The assailants also used explosive devices to
disable Humvees in and outside of the courtyard. Id.
at 59-60. At the same time as assailants attacked the main
building, other assailants fired at the U.S. barracks next
door, preventing soldiers there from aiding the troops in the
main building or those handcuffed in the courtyard.
Id. at 60. A unit of U.S. soldiers positioned
themselves on PJCC's roof, but the assailants had already
completed the assault and the explosion knocked the soldiers
back and obscured their version. Id. Meanwhile,
assailants were also firing at the back of the facility.
Id. After the assailants left the facility, they
continued along a route used by the Islamic Revolutionary
Guard Corps and passed through several checkpoints.
Id. After the checkpoint at Mahawil, the Iraqi Army
and Iraqi Police began pursuing the assailants' SUVs.
Id. at 60-61. Once the assailants realized that they
could not escape with the hostages, they abandoned most of
their equipment and vehicles, and then fatally wounded or
killed all the hostages. Id. at 61.
Court attributed this attack to Iran based on numerous
grounds. For one, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq ("AAH"),
"a Special Group supported by the [Islamic Revolutionary
Guard Corps] and spearheaded by Qais nad Layth Khazali,"
repeatedly claimed responsibility for the attack in various
ways. Id. at 61-62 (citing also Judge Moss's
opinion finding same). Second, the Court credited Mr.
Pregent's report and testimony, which found that
AAH's "claim of responsibility was credible."
Id. at 62. Third, the Court noted the collusion
between the Iraqi Police working at the PJCC and the assault
team, which was "further evidence that the operation was
planned by an experienced team under the direction of
[Iran-backed] Hezbollah and the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard
Corps Qods Force]." Id. at 62-63. Fourth, a
senior Hezbollah commander involved with AAH was captured in
a raid and later admitted to having a "significant
operational planning role" in the Karbala attack; the
raid also uncovered evidence tying the group to the Karbala
attack. Id. at 63-64 (quoting Pregent Rep. at 35).
Fifth, the operational leader of the Karbala attack was
trained by Hezbollah in Iran at the Islamic Revolutionary
Guard Corps Qods Force's direction. Id. at 64.
For these and other reasons, the Court found that there was
sufficient evidence to attribute the attack to Iran.
Id. at 65-66.
August 26, 2019 Memorandum Opinion, the Court further found
that it had subject-matter jurisdiction over the suit and
personal jurisdiction over Iran. Id. at 66. As for
subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court concluded that
FSIA's terrorism exception to foreign sovereign immunity
applied to the various attacks, including the Karbala attack.
Id. at 73-76; see also 28 U.S.C. §
1605A(a)(1) (laying out terrorism exception). The Court
subsequently found that Plaintiffs, except for those
Plaintiffs whose claims are discussed in this Memorandum
Opinion, established their entitlement to relief under 28
U.S.C. § 1605A(c), which "creates a cause of action
for the same conduct that gives rise to subject-matter
jurisdiction under the terrorism exception to sovereign
immunity." Aug. 26, 2019 Mem. Op., ECF No. 95, at 77
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, a party "must apply
to the court for a default judgment" when the
party's claims are not for "a sum certain or a sum
that can be made certain by computation." Fed.R.Civ.P.
55(b). The court then has discretion as to whether to enter a
default judgment. Hanley-Wood LLC v. Hanley Wood
LLC, 783 F.Supp.2d 147, 150 (D.D.C. 2011) (citing
Jacksonv. Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir.
1980)). A plaintiff seeking default judgment must persuade
the trial court that it has subject-matter and personal
jurisdiction over the defendant. Thuneibat v. Syrian Arab
Republic, 167 F.Supp.3d 22, 33 (D.D.C. 2016).
under the FSIA, the Court cannot enter default judgment
against a foreign state "unless the claimant establishes
his claim or right to relief by evidence satisfactory to the
court." 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e). The Court has
discretion to "determine precisely how much and what
kinds of evidence the plaintiff must provide." Han
Kim v. Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 774
F.3d 1044, 1047 (D.C. Cir. 2014). "Uncontroverted