Addressing a matter of first impression, this case resulted in a victory for foreign national family members of a U.S. citizen who sought relief under the latest amendment of the state-sponsored terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. § 1605A.
As the Leibovitch family drove along the Trans-Israel highway, members of the terrorist group Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) crossed into Israel from the West Bank and shot at the family with a variety of firearms. The terrorist shootings killed a seven-year-old Israeli citizen, while her sister, a U.S. citizen, suffered severe gunshot wounds to her wrist and torso. Four additional Israeli family members present in the car survived the 2003 attack without physical injury, although they witnessed the traumatic event.
The Leibovitch family filed claims in 2008 against the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran’s Ministry of Information and Security (collectively Iran) under the FSIA state-sponsored terrorism exception. The family sought damages on behalf of the injured child, her parents, and the family members who survived the attack, although all but the child are Israeli nationals.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois determined that Iran supplied the PIJ with “material support and resources for [its] campaign of extrajudicial killings,” and therefore found Iran was vicariously liable for PIJ’s terrorist attack. The district court adjudicated the claim for injuries sustained by the United States citizen child. But the trial court found no jurisdiction over intentional infliction of emotional distress claims brought by her other family members on the grounds that they are not United States citizens. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the latter part of the District Court’s decision, and held that the FSIA confers subject-matter jurisdiction over the emotional distress claims brought by the Leibovitchs under Israeli law.