SW Legal studies in Business

Foreign Governments Liable for Damages to Persons Caused by Support for Terrorists
Description Federal district court awarded over $50 million in compensatory damages and $300 million punitive damages to an American kidnaped in Lebanon, who was held and tortured for almost seven years by Hizbollah, a terrorist organization supported by the government of Iran. Sovereign immunity does not apply in such instance.
Topic International Law
Key Words Torts; Damages; Terrorism; Sovereign Immunity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Sutherland was teaching at a university in Lebanon in 1985 when he was kidnapped at gunpoint by members of the terrorist group Hizbollah. He spent the next six and one-half years in detention in various secret prisons in Lebanon, during which time he was tortured. After his release, he, his wife, and his children sued the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Ministry of Information and Security as the principals responsible for the multiple tortious injuries to Sutherland and his family because Iran financially backed and directed Hizbollah. Evidence was presented that Iran spends about $100 million per year or more supporting such terrorist activities. The Sutherlands sued for various torts requesting a total of over $50 million in damages. The government of Iran refused to respond to the lawsuit.
Decision Judgment for the Sutherlands. Foreign sovereign immunity is suspended by Congress for personal injuries "caused by an act of torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage, hostage taking, or the provision of material support or resources ... for such an act." Expert testimony established the role of the government of Iran with respect to Hizbollah, so it is not immune from liability. It is responsible for the torts of battery, assault, false imprisonment, and emotional distress. Damages under federal law in hostage cases come to roughly $10,000 per day for each day of captivity, or $24,540,000 for Sutherland, plus damages for his wife and children for loss of consortium and mental distress. The Iranian Ministry of Information and Security is also liable for $300 million in punitive damages to Sutherland.
Citation Sutherland v. Islamic Republic of Iran, - F.Supp.2d - (2001 WL 705838, D.D.C., 2001)

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