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Abtan, et al. v. Prince, et al.

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Synopsis

Estate of Himoud Saed Abtan, et al. v. Prince., et al. is a civil case filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against private government contractor, Blackwater (now known as “Xe Services”) and Erik Prince, its founder. The case was brought by those injured and the families of those killed following the Nisoor Square shooting on September 16, 2007. The case has been consolidated with four other cases against Blackwater/Xe for pre-trial discovery and briefing; Judge T.S. Ellis, III is presiding over the consolidated cases.

Status

The settlement of the case concluded on January 6, 2010.

Description

Estate of Himoud Saed Abtan, et al. v. Prince., et al.  was filed against Blackwater, the private military contractor whose heavily armed personnel opened fire on Iraqi civilians in Nisoor Square in Baghdad on September 16, 2007 by Iraqi citizens injured or the estates of those killed in Nisoor Square. The Defendants include Blackwater founder Erik Prince, U.S. Training Center, Inc. (formerly Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, Inc.), Blackwater Security Consulting LLC, GSD Manufacturing LLC (formerly Blackwater Targets Systems), Raven Development Group LLC, Greystone Limited, The Prince Group LLC, Total Intelligence Solutions LLC, and Xe Services LLC (formerly EP Investments LLC and d/b/a Blackwater Worldwide).

The case was initially filed on behalf of Talib Mutlaq Deewan, an Iraqi civilian who was injured by Blackwater personnel during the incident, and the families of three deceased men – Himoud Saed Abtan, Usama Fadhil Abbass, and Oday Ismail Ibraheem. Subsequent amendments to the complaint joined the families of additional Iraqi civilian who were killed, Ali Khaleel, Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, and Ghaniyah Hassan Ali. Twenty-one additional Iraqis who were injured are also now plaintiffs in the case: Abdulwahab Abdulqadir Al-Qalamchi, Mahdi Abdulkhudhir Abbass, Sami Hawas Hamood, Fereed Waleed Hassoon, Bara’a Sa’adoon Ismael, Sameer Hoobi Jabbar, Abdulameer Rahmeen Jehan, Mohammed Hassan Mohammed, Haider Ahmed Rabe’a,  Hassan Jabir Salman, Affrah Sattar Ghafil, Yassameen Abdulkhudir Salih, Wissam Raheem Fulaih, Alah Majeed Sghair Zaidi, Zuhair Najim Abbood Al-Mamouri, Ali Khalaf Salman Mansour, Sarhan Thiab Abdulmounem, Adel Jabir Shamma, Jassim Mohammed Hashim, Haider Sa’adoon Lateef, and Sa’adoon Lateef Majeed.

The complaint alleges that Blackwater and its affiliated companies violated state, federal and international law, and “created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life.” The complaint also alleged that Blackwater routinely deploys heavily-armed “shooters” in the streets of Baghdad with the knowledge that some of them are chemically influenced by steroids or other judgment-altering substances.  It further alleges that the Blackwater personnel who fired on the Iraqi civilians had ignored directives from the Tactical Operations Center (“TOC”), which was manned by both Blackwater and Department of State personnel, not to go to Nisoor Square. (The Department of Justice is prosecuting five of the “shooters” involved in the Nisoor Square massacre; one additional shooter has pled guilty.)

Plaintiffs allege that Erik Prince and the Blackwater companies are liable under the federal Alien Tort Statute (ATS) for committing war crimes and summary execution, and that they are liable for assault and battery, wrongful death, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, training and supervision, and tortious spoliation of evidence. Plaintiffs have also included one count under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for death, physical, mental, and economic injuries along with intentional and willful destruction of evidence, as well as punitive damages. The injured civilians and the families of victims of the Nisoor Square shooting are represented by Susan L. Burke and William F. Gould of Burke O’Neil LLC, Washington, D.C., and Katherine Gallagher, of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Timeline

October 11, 2007: Initial complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, captioned “Abtan, et al. v. Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, Inc.” The case was assigned to Judge Reggie Walton.

November 27, 2007: First amended complaint filed, adding Plaintiffs.

March 28, 2008: Second amended complaint filed, adding Plaintiffs.

March 28, 2008: Court ordered that Abtan be consolidated with Estate of Albazzaz, et al. v. Prince/Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, Inc. et al. for purposes of pre-trial discovery and briefing.

April 8, 2008:  Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of venue, to which the Plaintiffs filed an opposition on April 22, 2008. On April 28, 2008, Plaintiffs filed a motion to file a third amended complaint in order to include a spoliation claim.  Defendants filed opposition to motion to amend the complaint on May 7, 2008, to which the Plaintiffs filed a reply on May 19, 2008.

March 31, 2009: Order staying both the Defendants' motion to transfer or dismiss, and Plaintiffs' motion for leave to file an amendment, pending possible supplemental briefing on transfer or related to venue discovery.

April 27, 2009: Memorandum granting Plaintiffs' leave to seek venue discovery. 

June 2, 2009: Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case in the District of Columbia.

June 2, 2009: Plaintiffs filed a complaint on behalf of 30 plaintiffs – 22 injured and 8 killed – against Blackwater et al in the Eastern District of Virginia, captioned “Abtan v. Prince et al.”  The case was assigned to Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.

July 1, 2009: Plaintiffs file first amended complaint, adding RICO count.

July 17, 2009: Judge T.S. Ellis consolidated this case with the four other cases against Prince and the Blackwater companies pending in EDVA for all pretrial purposes, including discovery and dispositive motions.

July 20, 2009: Defendants filed consent motion to seal the Appendix to the Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.

July 22, 2009: Defendants filed motion seeking to enjoin the parties and their counsel from making extrajudicial statements regarding this litigation.

July 24, 2009: Consolidated motion to dismiss filed by Defendants.

July 31, 2009: Plaintiffs' filed opposition to Defendants' motion to bar all extrajudicial statements (with exhibits).

August 3, 2009: Plaintiffs' filed consolidated opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss (with exhibits).

August 7, 2009: Hearing on Defendants' motion to enjoin the parties from making any extrajudicial statements.  Judge Ellis denied defendants’ motion.

August 10, 2009: Defendants’ filed motion to strike exhibits G and H (Declarations of John Does 1 and 2) to Plaintiffs’ August 3, 2009 opposition to Defendants’ motion to dismiss.

August 12, 2009: Defendants’ filed motion to substitute the United States in place of all Defendants pursuant to the Westfall Act.

August 17, 2009: Defendants’ filed reply in support of motion to dismiss.

August 19, 2009: Court ordered that the United States and Plaintiffs to file responsive pleadings by October 8, 2009 to Defendants’ motion for substitution under the Westfall Act.

August 21, 2009: Plaintiffs’ opposition to Defendants’ motion to strike exhibits G and H (Declarations of John Does 1 and 2) to Plaintiffs’ August 3, 2009 opposition to Defendants’ motion to dismiss.

August 25, 2009: Defendants’ reply to response to Plaintiffs’ opposition to their motion to strike John Doe declarations.  Plaintiffs filed a response to this reply on August 27, 2009.

August 27, 2009: Plaintiffs’ Response to Defendants’ August 25, 2009 Reply to Response to Motion.

August 28, 2009: Hearing held on Defendants’ motion to dismiss. Additional briefing ordered in relation to the impact of Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 on Iraqi courts' ability to hear the nonfederal claims.

September 4, 2009: Defendants’ and Plaintiffs’ filed memoranda in response to Order for supplemental briefing on CPA 17.

September 8, 2009: Order that parties shall caption all pleadings “In re: Xe Services Alien Tort Litigation.”

September 16, 2009: Plaintiffs’ filed reply to Defendants’ supplemental briefing, with leave of the Court.

September 21, 2009: Defendants’ filed response to Plaintiffs’ reply re: supplemental briefing.

October 8, 2009: Plaintiffs’ filed memorandum in opposition to Defendants’ motion to substitute the United States as party in place of all Defendants and pursuant to the Westfall Act.

October 8, 2009: United States Government’s filed memorandum in opposition to Defendants’ motion to substitute the United States as party in place of all Defendants and pursuant to the Westfall Act.

October 9, 2009: Plaintiffs’ and Defendants’ filed memoranda on supplemental authority, Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman Energy, Inc.

October 9, 2009: Plaintiffs’ filed motion to lift stay of discovery.

October 16, 2009: Hearing on Plaintiffs’ motion to lift stay. Motion denied.

October 21, 2009: Order on Defendants' motion to dismiss. Motion denied in part, granted in part, and deferred in part.

October 28, 2009: Plaintiffs' filed second amended complaint.

January 6, 2010: Order dismissing case with prejudice due to settlement.

Attached Files