Alan Steen

CASE SUMMARY

ALANN B. STEEN et al., Plaintiffs, v. THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, et al. Case No.: 00-3037 CKK/JMF (D.D.C. 2000)

  • Towards the end of his ordeal, he believed that the two others he was kidnapped with had been killed (Buckley & Higgins)  – he simultaneously  mourned their passing, wondered why he was spared, and assumed he would be next to die.  
  • Utilizing his medical expertise, Dr. Engelberg was able to demonstrate the severity of the medical and psychological injuries that Alann Steen suffered during his prolonged confinement and its aftermath.

Alann Steen and his wife Virginia were professors at the American College in Beirut, Lebanon. On January 24, 1987, members of the staff were called to attend a meeting concerning security at the college. The Steens and other meeting attendees soon discovered this was a cruel pretext to have them assemble, decreasing their vigilance and increasing their vulnerability to potential threats. The speakers at the meeting revealed themselves as Hizballah members, who kidnapped Mr. Steen along with two other professors. Deprived of all contact with the outside world,  Mr. Steen would not experience freedom for the next 1,775 days, during which time he was kept chained to the wall, slept on a thin mattress, and fed just enough to keep him alive. Towards the end of his ordeal, he believed that the two others he was kidnapped with had been killed – he simultaneously  mourned their passing, wondered why he was spared, and assumed he would be next to die.  He was instead released on December 4, 1991 as part of a complex hostage exchange. At that time of his release, he was among the 10 longest held Western hostages in Lebanon. 

Years later, and after the passing of the Flatow Amendment, Dr. Engelberg flew west to Wyoming for a meeting with the Steens. During the meeting, they discussed what the Steens imagined justice might look like for them and how proceeding with legal action against the states that supported the groups and individuals who were responsible for his suffering could be part of their vision. With that goal in mind, the Steens engaged Dr. Engelberg to proceed as their attorney-in-fact, granting him the authority to manage all aspects of the case, from deciding which attorneys to retain to negotiating financial matters on their behalf.

In December 2000, the case against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security, the Iranian (Islamic) Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hizballah, and several individuals responsible for Steen’s kidnapping, confinement, and torture commenced. None of the defendants appeared.

Utilizing his medical expertise, Dr. Engelberg was able to demonstrate the severity of the medical and psychological injuries that Alann Steen suffered during his prolonged confinement and its aftermath.

Alann Steen was awarded $17,750,000 in compensatory damages, along with the optional enhancement of $10 million dollars due to the extreme conduct of the defendants. The amount was based on a formula used in previous cases brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act of $10,000 per day of detention. Virginia Steen was awarded $15,000,000 for her emotional suffering while her husband was held hostage and in recognition of her care for Mr. Steen as his health continued to decline. 

Alann Steen was also awarded punitive damages that could not, at that time, be directly assessed against a foreign state. Due to the especially cruel way he was treated and the long-term effects on his health, such as early-onset dementia, seizures, and the need for more and more invasive medical procedures, he was awarded $300,000,000, the approximate amount of the defendants’ annual budget for terrorism. 

Shortly after his release in 1991, Alann Steen enjoyed the honor of lighting the National Christmas Tree along with four other Americans who were as well held hostage and President George H.W. Bush.

Later, Alann Steen spent 12 years teaching journalism to students at Casper College in Wyoming, retiring in 2004. 

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