Military

U.S. District Court grants default judgment against Iran on behalf of service members injured/killed in Iraq

November 21, 2019

After Iran was properly served and defaulted, the Court held a bench trial to determine whether the evidence was sufficient to support entry of default judgment under the FSIA. Upon consideration of the Plaintiffs’ evidence and the record as a whole, the Court found Iran to be liable for the attacks and granted default judgment against Iran.

On May 3, 2005, Staff Sergeant Robert Bartlett was driving the lead Humvee of a convoy traveling outside of Sadr City, Baghdad when a projectile struck the top edge of the vehicle. The projectile, which the Court determined to be an explosively formed penetrator (EFP), cut Mr. Bartlett’s face and left him with severe third degree burns and shrapnel wounds on his body. The blast killed one of the other three occupants of the Humvee and knocked the two others unconscious as one was blown through the back of the vehicle. After spending some time at Walter Reed hospital, Mr. Bartlett would continue his recovery process over for the next four and a half years – including facial reconstructive surgery and dozens of other medical procedures all while dealing with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), PTSD, short-term memory loss, and chronic pain from nerve damage.

Mr. Bartlett is one of over three hundred Plaintiffs consisting of military service members, their estates, and family members who filed suit against Iran back in February, 2016. The Plaintiffs allege that Iran trained and supplied operatives in Iraq to attack American forces, most commonly with the EFP – Iran’s signature weapon during the war in Iraq. The Complaint seeks relief for the injuries of the surviving victims, the injuries and deaths of victims who were killed, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress endured by their families.

What is an EFP and how do we know it was Iranian-made?

An EFP, which was used in eighty-three of the ninety-two attacks on U.S. service members listed in this case, is a unique and particularly damaging weapon. The device consists of a short metal pipe packed with high-energy explosive and capped with a copper disk, which once detonated, can travel at speeds of over 2,000 meters per second. The speed of this molten slug enables it to cause exceptional damage to armored personnel carriers, piercing through the hardest of steel and ballistic glass. To make matters worse, the pressure wave of the slug has the potential to blow the vehicle’s doors off their hinges, disburse shards of the vehicle’s steel or Teflon, and possibly ignite the vehicle’s fuel.

Though the design and construction of an EFP may seem rudimentary at first glance, effective deployment of the weapon required precise craftsmanship and substantial strategic planning – something the average Iraqi Shi’a militia member could not reasonably be expected to pull off. These assertions, as well as intelligence gathered by the Department of Defense and extensive forensic analysis, assisted Plaintiff’s experts in sufficiently tracing the EFPs encountered in the Iraqi theater to Iran and Hezbollah.

You can’t typically sue a foreign sovereign nation, but there are a few exceptions

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) of 1976 established the limitations of bringing a lawsuit in U.S. federal or state court against a foreign state. As the Act’s name suggests, a foreign state is presumptively immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts unless a specified exception applies.

One of these exceptions is known as the terrorism exception, which generally allows U.S. victims of terrorism to bring an action against a government designated by the State Department as a state sponsor or terrorism. In this case, the Court concluded that Iran, who has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984, waived its sovereign immunity by providing material support for acts of extrajudicial killing and hostage taking in numerous attacks on service members, leading to their personal injuries or deaths.

After Iran was properly served and defaulted, the Court held a bench trial to determine whether the evidence was sufficient to support entry of default judgment under the FSIA. Upon consideration of the Plaintiffs’ evidence and the record as a whole, the Court found Iran to be liable for the attacks and granted default judgment against Iran.

Default judgment holders and the Iraq War Fund

The United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism (USVSST) Fund, commonly known as the Iraq War Fund, was created to provide compensation to victims of state-sponsored terrorism. Generally, the Fund was designed to award compensation to victims of international state-sponsored terrorism who have secured judgments in a U.S. district court (similar to the one mentioned in the case above) against a state sponsor of terrorism. Individuals who were held hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Iran from 1979 to 1981, along with their spouses and children, are also eligible claimants.

The Iraq War Fund, which is administered by the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, is funded by deposits of certain forfeiture proceeds, penalties, and fines arising from prohibited transactions with state sponsors of terrorism.

You may be entitled to compensation from the Fund

In the first round of disbursements from the Iraq War Fund, 2,024 claimants received awards ranging from approximately $1,300 to $2.7 million dollars. These prior results do not imply that your particular circumstances would qualify for any type of payments; however, thousands of veterans and their families will in fact qualify for substantial payments from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund. Subsequent distributions will be authorized annually until funds are depleted or until the Fund terminates in 2026.

If you or a loved one are a U.S. military service member, veteran, or military contractor who suffered injuries from certain explosive terrorist devices between 2003 and 2011 in Iraq or Afghanistan, you may have a claim for significant damages without ever going to court and even if you are already receiving disability or other compensation. Complete the form on this page or call our legal intake center at 1(888) 438-6453 for a free and no-obligation review of your case. We're here to help.

If you do not receive a recovery through a lawsuit or settlement, you don’t owe us anything.

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