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Law School Case Brief

Roth v. Islamic Republic of Iran - 78 F. Supp. 3d 379 (D.D.C. 2015)


The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has developed a standardized approach for evaluating intentional infliction of emotional distress claims for solatium damages in a Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act action, where it surveyed past awards to family members of victims of terrorism to determine that, based on averages, spouses typically receive greater damage awards than parents, who, in turn, typically receive greater awards than siblings. Relying upon its evaluation of past average awards, the court articulated a framework in which parents of deceased victims were awarded approximately $5 million and siblings received $2.5 million. In applying this framework, however, courts must be wary that these numbers are not set in stone, and that deviations may be warranted when, for example, evidence establishes an especially close relationship between the plaintiff and decedent, particularly in comparison to the normal interactions to be expected given the familial relationship; medical proof of severe pain, grief or suffering on behalf of the claimant is presented; and circumstances surrounding the terrorist attack rendered the suffering particularly more acute or agonizing.


On August 9, 2001,  Izz al-Din Shuheil Ahmed Masri detonated a ten-pound bomb at a Sbarro restaurant, which is located in Jerusalem, Israel. The resulting explosion killed 15 people, including plaintiff Malka Roth. Shortly afterwards, it became clear that Hamas was ultimately responsible for the attack. Plaintiffs brought claims pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS). They seek damages for injuries suffered as a result of the terrorist attack.


Were the plaintiffs entitled to compensatory damages and punitive damages?




The court possessed original jurisdiction over the claims brought pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because all of 28 U.S.C.S. § 1330(a)'s requirements were met, and the requirements for waiver of sovereign immunity, under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1605A, were met. The requirements for a claim to be heard, under § 1605A(a)(2), were met. Plaintiffs, Malka Roth and her family, complied with 28 U.S.C.S. § 1608(a)(4). Defendants, Iran and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security, may have been held liable to plaintiffs because defendants were state sponsors of terrorism, plaintiffs could have pursued § 1605A(c)'s private right of action, the acts giving rise to the case were of the type for which a foreign state may have been held liable, plaintiffs stated a valid theory of recovery, and the suit was one for person injury or death.

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