Gold Star Families' $10 Billion Lawsuit Against Iran Opens in Federal Court

Soldiers prepare old munitions for destruction during controlled detonation operations on Forward Operating Base Delta in southern Iraq, Oct. 31, 2009 (U.S. Army Photo/Staff Sgt. Brien Vorhees)
Soldiers prepare old munitions for destruction during controlled detonation operations on Forward Operating Base Delta in southern Iraq, Oct. 31, 2009 (U.S. Army Photo/Staff Sgt. Brien Vorhees)

A $10 billion lawsuit brought against Iran for allegedly supplying high-powered explosive devices that killed and wounded U.S. troops in Iraq began Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Wounded service members and Gold Star families filed the suit over high-powered roadside bombs called "Explosively Formed Penetrators" (EFPs), which killed a number of service members.

Patrick Farr, father of Army Spc. Clay Farr, said, "Iran was never held accountable on the battlefield" for the explosive that killed his son in February 2006.

Iran "got away with murder, pure and simple," Farr said in a release from Osen LLC, the Hackensack, New Jersey, law firm representing the plaintiffs. "The trial won't change any of that, but I hope it will help set the record straight so that our leaders learn from past mistakes and come to recognize the full magnitude of what Iran did to my son Clay and his fellow soldiers who were serving in Iraq."

The trial began days after the State and Defense Departments displayed -- for the second time in less than a year -- components of missiles, drones and other weapons that Iran allegedly sold or supplied to proxies. The items were showcased as evidence of Tehran's "malign influence" in the region, officials said.

"The new weapons we are disclosing today illustrate the scale of Iran's destructive role across the region," U.S. Special Representative for Iran and senior State Department adviser Brian Hook said last week during a news conference at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

In a statement, Gary M. Osen, managing partner at Osen LLC, said the trial before U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is "a critical first step in the wider effort to hold Iran accountable for targeting U.S. troops in Iraq for almost a decade with impunity."

With testimony from victims, and documentary evidence, Osen said the trial would show that Iran "conducted a calculated and coordinated campaign to murder and maim U.S. service members in Iraq and drive the United States out of the Middle East."

He said the purpose of the suit is "to lay out in detail how Iran developed its network of proxies in Iraq and used it to carry out terror attacks exclusively intended to target Americans and our coalition partners."

At his 2015 Senate confirmation hearing to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford did not dispute the assertion of Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, that as many as 500 U.S. troops had been killed by Iranian-supplied EFPs in Iraq.

"I know the total number of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that were killed by Iranian activities, and the number has been recently quoted as about 500," Dunford said. "We weren't always able to attribute the casualties we had to Iranian activity, although many times we suspected it was Iranian activity even though we didn't necessarily have the forensics to support that."

Iran does not recognize the court's jurisdiction and is not represented by a defense team for the trial. Kollar-Kotelly previously ruled that Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs was properly served by the plaintiffs in the case Karcher et al v. Islamic Republic of Iran and the trial could proceed before her without a jury.

The lawsuit seeks $10 billion in damages, but if or when any of the plaintiffs and families might receive compensation is open to question. The suit was brought under the terrorism exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which has been used to sue state sponsors of terrorism.

On its website, Osen LLC has noted that obtaining a judgment against a state sponsor of terrorism is "not nearly as difficult as enforcing and collecting on it."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com

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