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U.S. Court Awards Damages to Victims of August 7, 1998 East Africa Embassy Bombings

— Domani Spero

 

Last week, we posted the State Department’s Albright archive of the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings.  Yes, the interesting thing about that is how 16 years later, the names, the response, the briefings and the narrative are ever so familiar.

The twin-embassy bombings cost the lives of over 220 persons and wounded more than 4,000 others. Twelve American USG employees and family members, and 32 Kenyan and 8 Tanzanian USG employees, were among those killed.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07

U.S. Embassy Nairobi employees joined Charge d’Affaires Isiah Parnell for a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the victims of the 1998 Embassy bombing in Nairobi. August 7, 2014

In December 2011, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled (PDF via Legal Times) that the governments of Sudan and Iran will be liable for monetary damages to victims of suicide bombings at U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1998. According to Judge Bates’ 2011 order (PDF via Legal Times) , a special master was appointed to figure how much in damages the plaintiffs will receive.  The Court previously ruled that the foreign-national U.S.-government-employee victims have a federal cause of action, while their foreign-national family members have a cause of action under D.C. law.

On July 25, 2014, the Court entered final judgment on liability under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) on several related cases—brought by victims of the bombings and their families—against the Republic of Sudan, the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Sudan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (collectively “defendants”) for their roles in supporting, funding, and otherwise carrying out the attacks. The combined cases involve over 600 plaintiffs. The awards range from $1.5 million for severe emotional injuries to $7.5 million for severe injuries and permanent impairment. The total award is reportedly $8 billion.

Judge John Bates in his ruling  (see Wamai, et al.,v. Republic of Sudan, et.al. (pdf) (Civil Action No. 08-1349 (JDB) writes that the 1998 embassy bombings shattered the lives of all plaintiffs.

[T]heir personal stories reveals that, even more than fifteen years later, they each still feel the horrific effects of that awful day. Damages awards cannot fully compensate people whose lives have been torn apart; instead, they offer only a helping hand. But that is the very least that these plaintiffs are owed. Hence, it is what this Court will facilitate.

 

 

Below are some of the embassy employees and their injuries cited in court documents:

  • Many plaintiffs suffered little physical injury—or none at all—but have claims based on severe emotional injuries because they were at the scene during the bombings or because they were involved in the extensive recovery efforts immediately thereafter. Those plaintiffs will be awarded $1.5 million. See id. Typical of this category is Edward Mwae Muthama, who was working at the offsite warehouse for the United States Embassy in Kenya when the bombings occurred. Report of Special Master John Aldock Concerning Edward Muthama [ECF No. 93] at 4. Shortly after the attack, Muthama headed to the blast site and spent days assisting with the gruesome recovery efforts; to this day he suffers from emotional distress resulting from his time administering aid to survivors and handling the dead bodies (and body parts) of his murdered colleagues. Id.
  • Other plaintiffs suffered minor injuries (such as lacerations and contusions caused by shrapnel), accompanied by severe emotional injuries. They will be awarded $2 million. Typical is Emily Minayo, who was on the first floor of the United States Embassy in Nairobi at the time of the bombing. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Emily Minayo [ECF No. 162] at 4. She was thrown to the floor by the force of the blast, but she was lucky enough to escape with only lacerations that were later sewn up during a brief hospital stay. Id. She continues, however, to suffer from severe emotional damage resulting from her experience. Id.
  • To those who suffered more serious physical injuries, such as broken bones, head trauma, some hearing or vision impairment, or impotence, the Court will award $2.5 million. Typical is Francis Maina Ndibui, who was in the United States Embassy in Nairobi during the bombing. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Francis Maina Ndibui [ECF No. 152] at 4. Ndibui became temporarily trapped under debris that fell from the ceiling, and he suffered minor lacerations similar to Minayo’s. Id. Also as a result of the bombing, he continues to suffer from partial vision impairment, which has persisted even through reparative surgery. Id. He also suffers from severe emotional damage resulting from his experience. Id.
  • Plaintiffs with even more serious injuries—including spinal injuries not resulting in paralysis, more serious shrapnel injuries, head trauma, or serious hearing impairment—will be awarded $3 million. Typical is Victor Mpoto, who was at the United States Embassy in Dar es Salaam on the day of the bombing. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Victor Mpoto [ECF No. 136] at 3. The blast knocked him to the ground and covered him in debris, causing minor physical injuries. Id. Because he was only about fifteen meters away from the blast, he suffered severe hearing loss in both ears that continues to this day and for which he continues to receive treatment. Id. He also suffers from severe emotional damage resulting from his experience. Id. at 4.
  • Those who suffered from injuries similar to those plaintiffs who are generally awarded the “baseline” award of $5 million (involving some mix of serious hearing or vision impairment, many broken bones, severe shrapnel wounds or burns, lengthy hospital stays, serious spinal or head trauma, and permanent injuries) will also be awarded that baseline. See Valore, 700 F. Supp. 2d at 84. Typical is Pauline Abdallah, who was injured in the bombing of the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Stephen Saltzburg Concerning Pauline Abdallah [ECF No. 117] at 3. She was knocked unconscious by the blast, and later spent about a month in the hospital. Id. She suffered severe shrapnel wounds requiring skin grafts, third-degree burns, and two of her fingers were amputated. Id. Shrapnel still erupts from her skin. Id. She also suffered severe hearing loss. Id. Like other plaintiffs who were injured in the bombing, she suffers from severe emotional damage. Id. at 3-4.
  • And for a few plaintiffs, who suffered even more grievous wounds such as lost eyes, extreme burns, severe skull fractures, brain damage, ruptured lungs, or endured months of recovery in hospitals, upward departures to $7.5 million are in order. Livingstone Busera Madahana was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Kenneth Adams Concerning Livingstone Busera Madahana [ECF No. 175] at 4. Shrapnel from the blast completely destroyed his right eye and permanently damaged his left. Id. He suffered a skull fracture and spent months in a coma; his head trauma caused problems with his memory and cognition. Id. “He endured multiple surgeries, skin grafts, physical therapy, vocational rehabilitation, speech and cognitive therapy, and psychotherapy for depression.” Id.
  • Gideon Maritim was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Gideon Maritim [ECF No. 222] at 3. The second explosion knocked him unconscious for several hours. Id. at 4 The blast ruptured his eardrums, knocked out several teeth, and embedded metal fragments into his eyes. Id. He also suffered deep shrapnel wounds to his legs and stomach, and his lungs were ruptured. Id. His hearing is permanently impaired, as is his lung function. Id. at 5. And he suffers from chronic back and shoulder pain. Id.
  • Charles Mwaka Mulwa was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Charles Mwaka Mulwa [ECF No. 132] at 3. The bomb blast permanently disfigured his skull, ruptured both his eardrums, and embedded glass in his eyes. Id. He continues to suffer from nearly total hearing loss, and his eyesight is permanently diminished. Id. And he suffered from other shrapnel injuries to his head, arms, and legs. Id.
  • Tobias Oyanda Otieno was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Tobias Oyanda Otieno [ECF No. 181] at 4. The blast caused permanent blindness in his left eye, and substantial blindness in his right. Id. He suffered severe shrapnel injuries all over his body, including a particularly severe injury to his hand, which resulted in permanent impairment. Id. His lower back was also permanently damaged, causing continuous pain to this day. Id. He spent nearly a year recovering in hospitals. Id.
  • Moses Kinyua was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Deborah Greenspan Concerning Moses Kinyua [ECF No. 202] at 4. The blast knocked him into a coma for three weeks. Id. His skull was crushed, his jaw was fractured in four places, and he lost his left eye. Id. The head trauma resulted in brain damage. Id. In addition, he suffered from a ruptured eardrum, a detached retina in his right eye, a dislocated shoulder, broken fingers, and serious shrapnel injuries. Id. He was ultimately hospitalized for over six months. Id.
  • Joash Okindo was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Joash Okindo [ECF No. 163] at 4. He spent about eight months in hospitals, and was in a coma for the first month because he suffered a skull fracture. Id. at 4-5. He suffered from severe shrapnel injuries to his head, back, legs, and hands, and the blast fractured bones in both of his legs. Id. at 4.
  • Each of these plaintiffs also suffered severe emotional injuries. The injuries suffered by these plaintiffs are comparable to those suffered by plaintiffs who were awarded $7–$8 million in Peterson II. See 515 F. Supp. 2d at 55-57 (e.g., Michael Toma, who suffered “various cuts from shrapnel, internal bleeding in his urinary system, a deflated left lung, and a permanently damaged right ear drum”). Hence, the Court will award each of these plaintiffs $7.5 million for pain and suffering. The Court adopts the recommendations by special masters of awards consistent with the adjusted guidelines described above, and will adjust inconsistent awards accordingly.

An attorney for hundreds of the East African victims cited the “need to have patience and determination” in collecting approximately $8 billion from Iran and Sudan, acknowledging it is unlikely that the  two governments would make voluntarily payments for the award ordered by the U.S. court. The lawyers are reportedly looking at Iranian and Sudanese assets seized in the United States or other countries as a source for the court-ordered payments.

 

Related documents ( all pdfs):

07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1380 ONSONGO et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 233 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates

07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1361 AMDUSO et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 255 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates

07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1349 WAMAI et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 246 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates

 

 

 

 

 

 

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