By Louis M. Solomon
Sheryl Wultz, et al. v. Islamic Republic
of Iran, 08-cv-1460 (D.D.C. 2010), [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers] bears mention because of more recent attempts by non-U.S.
sovereigns to avoid jurisdiction in the U.S. under 29 U.S.C. § 1605A (see our discussion
of the application
of the new terrorist exception to overcome claims of sovereign immunity). The
ruling concerning causation also has implications to international litigation practice
Daniel Wultz and his father were, respectively,
killed and injured in a Palenstinian suicide bombing in April 2006 in Tel Aviv.
The family sued Syria under the terrorism exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities
Act (§ 1605A).
In denying the Syrian defendants' motion
to dismiss, the District Court rejected as "utterly meritless" arguments that the
FSIA terrorism exception violates the principle of sovereign immunity, or that it
raises nonjusticiable political questions, or that it violates the separation of
powers limitations of the U.S. constitution.
On the issue of whether the complaint
in the case adequately pleaded a causal link between Syria and the Tel Aviv bombing,
the District Court ruled that "there is no 'but-for' causation requirement for claims
made under the FSIA"; the statute used the unadorned term "caused by". Following
the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Jerome B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge
& Dock Co., 513 U.S. 527 (1995) [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers / unenhanced version available from lexisONE Free Case Law] , as well as Circuit authority, the District Court held that
the statutory language required only "proximate cause" - i.e., "some reasonable
connection between the act or omission of the defendant and the damages which the
plaintiff has suffered". The District Court found that connection adequately pleaded
by allegations that "the Syrian defendants provided the [Palestinian terrorist unit]
with, inter alia, "financial support"; "military-grade explosives, military firearms[,]
and other weapons and matériel"; "specialized and professional military training
for the planning and execution of terrorist attacks"; "means of electronic communication
and electronic communications equipment"; "financial services, including banking
and wire transfer services"; and "lodging, safe haven[,] and shelter."
The District Court went on to say that
the "Syrian defendants even allegedly provided the [Palestinian terrorist unit]
with a headquarters in Damascus, including land, buildings, and utilities". The
District Court reasoned that these allegations were "substantially similar" to those
made against Syria in another case decided by the District Court, which we also
found to be sufficient. The District Court did not analyze the allegations under
any theory of indirect or aiding and abetting liability.
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