Ontario court awards $142M to families of Flight PS752 victims
Families looking to seize and sell Iranian assets in Canada
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has awarded more than $142 million to the families of eight people who died in the destruction of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.
The victims' families sued Iran, its supreme leader, and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) among others, arguing they are responsible for an act of terrorism and the harm and losses the families suffered.
Justice David Stinson concluded the plaintiffs established the shooting down of Flight PS752 by the defendants "was an act of terrorism that constitutes 'terrorist activity.'"
"An award of punitive damages against the defendants … is intended to punish, denounce and deter," Stinson wrote in his endorsement of the plaintiffs' motion for a default judgment.
The families were each awarded more than $16 million in punitive damages, and $1 million each for pain and suffering. Some who lost siblings, spouses, a 22-year-old daughter, and nieces were also awarded between $150,000 and $200,000 each for loss of guidance, care and companionship.
This case is the second default proceeding brought before the Ontario Superior Court tied to the downing of the plane on Jan. 8, 2020.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down the plane with two surface-to-air missiles shortly after takeoff in Tehran, killing all 176 passengers on board, including 55 Canadian citizens, 30 permanent residents and others with ties to Canada.
The Superior Court in Ontario also issued another decision last year awarding $107 million to the families of six other people who died on the plane. The total amount awarded in damage judgments is close to $250 million to the families of 14 victims.
Iran did not defend itself in court in either case, making both default judgments.
WATCH/ Canada helps take Iran to court for shooting down of Flight PS752
Joanna Harrington, a law professor at the University of Alberta, says the challenge now is getting the money from Iran. It's unlikely Iran has any assets in Canada, she said.
"Given that Iran is suing Canada before the International Court of Justice, alleging that Canada is in breach of an international law obligation to respect a foreign state's immunity from another country's domestic courts, Iran is unlikely to have any assets in Canada for the execution of this judgment," said Harrington.
The federal government is separately seeking reparations for the victims' family members through the International Court of Justice. Canada, along with other countries that lost citizens in the destruction of the plane — the U.K., Sweden and Ukraine — officially launched a case last month and is asking the UN's top court to order Iran to investigate the crash, prosecute or extradite offenders, and compensate victims' families.
"Iran is likely aware of this judgment, as it is aware of past judgments," said Harrington.
Looking to sell former Iranian diplomatic property
Lawyer Mark Arnold represented the families involved in both of the civil cases.
Some of the families are now involved in another civil lawsuit that seeks the seizure and sale of all former Iranian diplomatic property in Canada, Arnold said in a press release Tuesday.
Arnold has said that his team will look to seize Iranian assets in Canada and abroad. He said Iran has oil tankers in other countries and his team will be looking to seize whatever it can to pay what the families are owed.
WATCH/ Ontario court blocks attempt by families of Flight PS752 victims to seize Iranian assets
"That claim is aggressively opposed by the government of Canada despite having severed all diplomatic ties with Iran in September 2012," wrote Arnold.
"Canada continues to assert that the former diplomatic property remains diplomatic despite the severing of diplomatic relations and the 2012 expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Canada."
Iran has maintained Flight PS752 was shot down unintentionally by the IRGC. Iran issued a final investigation report that said the "aircraft was misidentified as a hostile target by an air defence unit." Canada has rejected that finding and is pursuing reparations through the International Court of Justice.