Owens v. Republic of Sudan, No. 14-5105 (D.C. Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed suit against Sudan for personal injuries suffered by victims of the al Qaeda embassy bombings and their families in Nairobi, Kenya and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The DC Circuit held that the purpose and statutory history of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) support the conclusion that the plain meaning of 28 U.S.C. 1605A(a) grants the courts jurisdiction over claims against designated state sponsors of terrorism that materially support extrajudicial killings committed by nonstate actors; plaintiffs have offered sufficient admissible evidence that establishes that Sudan's material support of al Qaeda proximately caused the 1998 embassy bombings and the district court, therefore, correctly held that plaintiffs met their burden of production under the FSIA terrorism exception; the limitation period in section 1605A(b) was not jurisdictional, and thus Sudan forfeited its affirmative defense to the Khaliq, Opati, and Aliganga actions by failing to raise it in the district court; a plaintiff proceeding under either state or federal law cannot recover punitive damages for conduct occurring prior to the enactment of section 1605A; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing to vacate the default judgments for "excusable neglect" and in denying Sudan's motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6). Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's findings of jurisdiction with respect to all plaintiffs and all claims; affirmed the district court's denial of vacatur; vacated all awards of punitive damages; and certified a question of state law – whether a plaintiff must be present at the scene of a terrorist bombing in order to recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) – to the D.C. Court of Appeals.