United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ESTER LELCHOOK, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of David Martin Lelchook; MICHAEL LELCHOOK; YAEL LELCHOOK; ALEXANDER LELCHOOK; and DORIS LELCHOOK, Plaintiffs,
THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN; THE CENTRAL BANK OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN; BANK SADERAT IRAN; and BANK SADERAT, PLC, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PATTI B. SARIS Chief United States District
case involves the death of David Lelchook, an American
citizen, killed by a rocket fired by Hezbollah into northern
Israel during the summer of 2006. Plaintiffs, the
decedent’s relatives, allege that the defendants-Iran,
the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Bank
Saderat Iran, and Bank Saderat, PLC-helped funnel money to
Hezbollah. Plaintiffs have brought claims under the Foreign
Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1602 et
seq., and the Antiterrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2331
et seq., as well as supplemental tort claims under
Israeli and Massachusetts law.
Bank Saderat, PLC (BSPLC), has moved to transfer this case
under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to the District of Columbia.
After hearing and supplemental briefing, the Court concluded
that it must find that the District of Columbia has personal
jurisdiction over BSPLC before transferring the case there.
Docket No. 54. Both parties argue that the District Court for
the District of Columbia lacks personal jurisdiction over
BSPLC. Nonetheless, BSPLC maintains the equitable doctrine of
judicial estoppel provides an alternative basis for transfer.
Finding that judicial estoppel does not apply here, the Court
DENIES the defendant’s motion to transfer
(Docket No. 21).
following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.
The Present Case
July 12 and August 14, 2006, Hezbollah fired thousands
of rockets into northern Israel. On August 2, 2006, one of
these rockets killed David Lelchook, a 52-year-old American
citizen, while he was riding his bicycle in Kibbutz Saar.
Plaintiffs here are the estate, widow, daughters, brother,
and mother of Mr. Lelchook.
are the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran), the Central Bank of
the Islamic Republic of Iran (CBI), Bank Saderat Iran (BSI),
and Bank Saderat, PLC (BSPLC). CBI is a political subdivision
of Iran and its central bank. BSI is a bank incorporated in
Iran and one of the country’s largest commercial banks.
At the time of the rocket attack in question, BSI was wholly
owned and controlled by the Iranian government. BSPLC is a bank
incorporated in England and Wales, and is a wholly-owned
subsidiary of BSI. The plaintiffs allege-and BSPLC
disputes-that the defendants provided extensive, material
support and resources to Hezbollah that enabled it to fire
the rocket that killed Mr. Lelchook. Specifically, the
plaintiffs assert that Iran utilizes CBI, BSI, and BSPLC to
transfer funds to its terrorist proxies, including Hezbollah.
plaintiffs’ complaint alleges seven separate counts.
Counts I and II are against Iran and CBI, and allege
violations of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1602 et seq. (FSIA). Counts III and IV are
against BSI and BSPLC, and allege violations of the
Antiterrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2331 et seq.
(ATA). Counts V and VI are against all four defendants, and
allege violations of Israeli tort law. Count VII is against
all four defendants, and alleges a violation of Massachusetts
have attempted service on all four defendants. BSPLC is the
sole defendant moving to transfer venue. None of the other
defendants answered or filed any other motion. The Clerk has
entered notices of default as to BSI (Docket No. 44) and CBI
(Docket No. 65). The Court has not entered a default judgment
against any defendant.
The D.C. Litigation
9, 2010, the same plaintiffs sued the same defendants over
the death of the same individual in the District of Columbia.
See Lelchook v. Cent. Bank of the Islamic Republic of
Iran, Civ. No. 10-1184 (RCL) (D.D.C. Aug. 20, 2013)
(“Lelchook I”). In that case, the
plaintiffs brought the same claims as those brought here:
FSIA claims, ATA claims, and Israeli tort claims.
the plaintiffs’ claims were pending in Lelchook
I, another group of plaintiffs sued the same four
defendants: Iran, CBI, BSI, and BSPLC. See Kaplan v.
Cent. Bank of the IslamicRepublic of Iran, 961
F.Supp.2d 185, 190 (D.D.C. 2013). The claims at issue in
Kaplan involved different rocket attacks during the
same 34-day conflict along the border between Israel and
Lebanon. Id. The plaintiffs brought FSIA, ATA, and
Israeli tort law claims. Id. At 190-91. The court
dismissed all claims against BSPLC and BSI, including the