WASHINGTON (CN) - The family of an American killed on a Hezbollah-hijacked Kuwait Airlines flight cannot use updated law to seek more damages from Iran, a federal judge ruled.
Hezbollah terrorists hijacked a 1984 Kuwait Airlines flight bound for Karachi and diverted it to Tehran, where they murdered passenger Charles Hegna, a 50-year-old auditor who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. AID).
In 2000, a federal judge found the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Ministry of Information and Security liable for Hegna's death as supporters of Hezbollah.
Because Hezbollah had falsely imprisoned, brutally assaulted and tortured Hegna, the court found that Iran had waived its sovereign immunity.
It ordered Iran to pay $42 million in compensatory damages, while the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security had to pay $42 million in compensatory damages and $333 million in punitive damages.
Hegna's survivors filed a second action after Congress repealed the terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and replaced it with an updated version in 2008.
Since the revised law authorizes plaintiffs to seek punitive damages against foreign states, Hegna's estate hoped to get punitive damages from Iran. The estate also added Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a defendant.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras rejected the maneuver Monday.
"The statute does not clearly authorize this second suit - and if it did, it would raise a serious question as to whether it violated the Article III prohibition on the legislative revision of final judicial judgments," the 33-page ruling states.
"The judgment in Hegna I was final, valid, and on the merits; the court had jurisdiction to issue it," Contreras added. "Absent some reason to conclude otherwise, the claims that the Hegnas assert here would therefore be barred by the earlier judgment in their favor."
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