A Washington federal judge awarded $813 million to victims of the 1983 terrorist bombing at the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, the latest in a string of large money judgments awarded against Iran for its role in the attack.
As U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth noted in his opinion (PDF) opinion on July 3, the D.C. federal court has issued more than $8.8 billion in judgments against Iran to date for its role in the bombing. "Iran is racking up quite a bill from its sponsorship of terrorism," Lamberth wrote.
The attack killed 241 servicemen and wounded many others. In 2003, the court found the Iranian government liable for supporting the terrorists behind the attack, a ruling that's been applied to subsequent cases and the source of a few particularly large judgments in the past year. Lamberth awarded $2.1 billion in one case in March and $1.2 billion in another case in December.
In this latest case, Lamberth entered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in 2009 and appointed a special master to sort through the damages claims. Lamberth approved $183 million in compensatory damages and $630 million in punitive damages. In the opinion, Lamberth applauded the plaintiffs' "persistent efforts to hold Iran accountable for its cowardly support of terrorism."
"This horrific act impacted countless individuals and their families, a number of whom receive awards in this lawsuit. This Court hopes that the victims and their families may find some measure of solace from this Court's final judgment," he wrote.
In his opinion, Lamberth approved money damages for most of the several dozen plaintiffs, who included victims of the attack and their family members. He dismissed one set of claims brought on behalf of the son of one injured serviceman, finding that the son was ineligible under the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because he was born after the attack. He dismissed claims brought by several family members of another victim, finding that they didn't have the "close relationship" required for an award under the law.
Lamberth noted that the total amount of judgments against Iran is likely to go up as he resolves more pending cases. "Regardless, no award—however many billions it contained—could accurately reflect the countless lives that have been changed by Iran’s dastardly acts," he wrote.
The plaintiffs were represented by attorneys from Washington’s Heideman Nudelman & Kalik. Senior counsel Richard Heideman, in an e-mail this morning, said that Lamberth’s ruling “is an important victory for the Marines who lost life and limb as a direct result of the Iranian sponsored bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut.”
“We are pleased that these American victims and their families have received their due justice from the Court and we will continue our efforts to fight for these victims and other American victims of terror and hold the Islamic Republic of Iran fully accountable for these heinous acts of murder,” he said.