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Chaim Kaplan, et al v. Al Jazeera

June 7, 2011

CHAIM KAPLAN, ET AL., PLAINTIFF,
v.
AL JAZEERA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, U.S.D.J.:

Opinion & Order

I. Overview

A group of American, Israeli, and Canadian civilians ("Plaintiffs") bring this action against Al Jazeera ("Defendant"), alleging claims under the Antiterrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2333, under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, and under Israeli law for negligence and vicarious liability.

Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint ("FAC") pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 12(b)(6)"). For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion in part, and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' remaining Israeli law claims.

II. Background

The following facts are drawn from Plaintiffs' Complaint, and are taken as true for the purposes of Defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

A. The Parties

Plaintiffs are a group of United States, Canadian, and Israeli citizens who were injured in a series of rocket and missile attacks carried out in Israel by the Hezbollah organization ("Hezbollah")*fn1 between July 12, 2006 and August 14, 2006; Plaintiffs also include the family members and personal representatives of the estates of one American citizen and four Israeli citizens who were killed in those attacks. (FAC ¶¶ 1-12.)

Defendant is a television network incorporated in Qatar, which conducts business in the United States. (FAC ¶ 13.)

B. Facts

Between July 12, 2006 and August 14, 2006, Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets and missiles at civilians in northern Israel (referred to by Plaintiffs as the "Hezbollah Rocket Barrage"). (FAC ¶ 34.) The Hezbollah Rocket Barrage resulted in the deaths of at least forty-three civilians and injured hundreds of others. (FAC ¶ 35.)

Plaintiffs state that it was "extremely difficult" for Hezbollah to aim its rockets during the Hezbollah Rocket Barrage, because Hezbollah's rockets had no internal guidance system. (FAC ¶ 36.) Plaintiffs state that the only way for Hezbollah to aim its rockets accurately was for it to obtain information regarding the precise locations where other rockets had already landed, and to then adjust the trajectory of subsequently fired rockets accordingly. (FAC ¶ 37.) Plaintiffs allege that such information (i.e. where Hezbollah's rockets had landed) was broadcast by Defendant. (FAC ¶¶ 39-41.)

Specifically, Plaintiffs state that, during the course of the Hezbollah Rocket Barrage, Defendant's employees, while located in Israel, "repeatedly and intentionally recorded and transmitted to Al Jazeera's broadcast facilities real-time audiovisual footage . . . describing and depicting the precise impact locations in Israel of rockets fired by Hezbollah, and [that] those transmissions were broadcast in real-time to the public by Al-Jazeera." (FAC ¶ 39.) Plaintiffs state that Defendant's recording, transmission, and broadcast of the impact locations of Hezbollah's rockets was done pursuant to "the official organizational policies" of Defendant.*fn2

(FAC ¶ 40.)

Plaintiffs state that Defendant broadcast the impact locations of Hezbollah's rockets "for the specific purpose and with the specific intention of assisting Hezbollah to more accurately aim its rockets, and thereby inflict more and greater harm" on Israel and the United States. (FAC ¶ 42.)

In this action, Plaintiffs assert five claims against Defendant. First, those Plaintiffs with United States citizenship claim that Defendant's news broadcasts of the Hezbollah Rocket Barrage constitute "acts of international terrorism" under the Antiterrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a). (See FAC ¶¶ 113-25.) Second, those same Plaintiffs claim that Defendant aided and abetted Hezbollah's "international acts of terrorism" under the Antiterrorism Act. (See FAC ¶¶ 126-35.) Third, those Plaintiffs who do not have United States citizenship*fn3 claim that Defendant aided and abetted Hezbollah's war crimes and violations of the law of nations within the meaning of the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350. (See FAC ¶¶ 136-44.) Finally, all Plaintiffs bring claims under Israel's Civil Wrongs Ordinance for negligence and vicarious liability. (See FAC ¶¶ 145-64.)

Defendant moves to dismiss all of Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (See Dkt. Entry No. 22.)

III. Legal Standard

In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must have pleaded sufficient factual allegations "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, -- U.S. --, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Where a plaintiff has not "nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [the] complaint must be dismissed." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see also Starr v. Sony BMG Music Entm't, 592 F.3d 314, 321 (2d Cir. 2010) ("'[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the Court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct,' however, dismissal is appropriate.") (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950).

The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint, and "draw[ ] all inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Allaire Corp. v. Okumus, 433 F.3d 248, 249-50 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotations omitted). However, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (noting that a court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation" (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986))).

Finally, the requirement to plead facts rather than legal conclusions applies to allegations of a defendant's intent as well as allegations about a defendant's conduct. See Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1954 ("Respondent finally maintains that the Federal Rules expressly allow him to allege petitioners' discriminatory intent 'generally,' which he equates with a conclusory allegation. . . . But the Federal Rules do not ...


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