Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

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The “Old Mill” in Belgrade, Serbia, was confiscated, allegedly from plaintiffs' ancestors, in 1945, without compensation, and later sold to private developers. Prigan now holds title and, with Carlson, renovated the Old Mill. The property is now a four‐star Radisson Blu Hotel complex. Carlson is the licensor of the Radisson Blu brand and participates in the hotel’s management. Ten years before the hotel's construction, plaintiffs began trying to recover their rights over the Old Mill. In 2009 a Serbian court annulled the declaration that plaintiffs’ family were enemies of the state. They sued Carlson, alleging trespass, conversion, conspiracy, unjust enrichment, constructive trust, and violation of the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Carlson agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of the Serbian Restitution Agency, which was empowered by Serbia's 2011 “Law on Property Restitution and Compensation” to determine rights in the property, including improvements. The judge dismissed the suit on the ground of forum non conveniens. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the plaintiffs produced no documentary evidence that they have inherited the land and that the dispute is appropriate for the Serbian Agency . Although one plaintiff is an American citizen and a resident of Illinois, the other is a citizen of Canada but a resident of Paris; no aspect of the dispute has any relation to Illinois. View "Veljkovic v. Carlson Hotels, Inc." on Justia Law

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Water Splash sued Menon, a former employee, in Texas state court. Because Menon resided in Canada, Water Splash obtained permission to effect service by mail. Menon declined to answer or enter an appearance. The trial court issued a default judgment. Menon argued that service by mail was impermissible under the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters (Hague Service Convention). Vacating a Texas Court of Appeals decision in Menon’s favor, the Supreme Court held that the Convention does not prohibit service of process by mail. Article 10(a) uses the term “judicial documents” and the ordinary meaning of the word “send” is broad enough to cover the transmission of any judicial documents. The Convention’s drafting history strongly suggests that the drafters understood that service by postal channels was permissible; in the half-century since the Convention was adopted, the Executive Branch has consistently maintained that it allows service by mail. Other Convention signatories have consistently adopted that view. That Article 10(a) encompasses service by mail does not mean that it affirmatively authorizes such service; service by mail is permissible if the receiving state has not objected to service by mail and if such service is authorized under other applicable laws. View "Water Splash, Inc. v. Menon" on Justia Law

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AT&T’s patent is directed to a method of compressing and transmitting transform coefficients in a manner that does not rely on scanning the coefficients in any particular order; all of the coefficients in a block are transmitted at once. Days before the America Invents Act inter partes review procedures went into effect, LG requested inter partes reexamination of the patent, alleging anticipation. Before the PTO decided whether to initiate reexamination, LG asked the PTO to suspend its rule prohibiting a requester from filing documents between requesting inter partes reexamination and the PTO’s initial office action on the merits so that it could file a second request, requesting denial of its initial request. LG did not withdraw, nor did it withdraw its reexamination request. The PTO granted LG’s initial request and declined to suspend the rules. The examiner found new grounds of rejection. While discussions between AT&T and the examiner were ongoing, LG withdrew. The examiner suspended the prohibition against interviews during inter partes reexamination proceedings. Before any amendment, the examiner issued an Action Closing Prosecution that explained a different basis for finding the patent anticipated. The Board and the Federal Circuit affirmed. The Board did not exceed its statutory authority when instituting the reexamination and substantial evidence supported the finding of anticipation. View "In re: AT&T Intellectual Property II" on Justia Law

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A case falls within the scope of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1604, “expropriation exception” and may be pursued against a foreign state in U.S. federal courts only if the property in which the party claims to hold rights was indeed “property taken in violation of international law.” The Supreme Court held that the exception should not be evaluated under the “nonfrivolous-argument standard” and remanded to the District of Columbia Circuit. The case was filed by a wholly-owned Venezuelan subsidiary and its American parent company that supplied oil rigs to entities that were part of the Venezuelan Government, claiming that Venezuela had unlawfully expropriated the subsidiary’s rigs by nationalizing them. A court should decide the foreign sovereign’s immunity defense at the threshold of the action, resolving any factual disputes as near to the outset of the case as is reasonably possible. The expropriation exception grants jurisdiction only where there is a legally valid claim that a certain kind of right is at issue (property rights) and that the relevant property was taken in a certain way (in violation of international law). Simply making a nonfrivolous argument to that effect is not sufficient. View "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela v. Helmerich & Payne Int’l Drilling Co." on Justia Law

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The Sixth Appellate District directed the superior court to reconsider its denial of a motion to dismiss or stay a personal injury lawsuit under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The suit was filed by a Canadian citizen and resident of British Columbia against Fox, a California corporation that manufactures bicycle parts. The plaintiff was injured while mountain biking in Canada on a custom-built bicycle that included parts manufactured by Fox. The plaintiff filed another court action in Vancouver, naming other defendants. Fox argued that British Columbia, where the Canadian case was ongoing, was a suitable forum because plaintiff was a British Columbia resident, the accident took place in British Columbia, and all relevant evidence, medical personnel, and percipient witnesses were located there. Fox believed it was at an unfair disadvantage because it had no way to compel the appearance of crucial Canadian witnesses, and that the cases should be tried together to prevent piecemeal litigation. Fox stipulated that it would subject itself to jurisdiction in British Columbia. The superior court applied the “seriously inconvenient forum” standard in denying Fox’s motion. The court of appeal stated “a foreign, noncitizen plaintiff’s choice of forum is entitled to less deference.” View "Fox Factory, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In 2014-2015, Schmückle, a German citizen living in Germany, served as MAG Group’s CEO and managing director of MAG Germany. In 2015, MAG Holdings and MAG US sued (in Michigan) for breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence, waste of corporate assets, unjust enrichment, and tortious interference under Michigan law. In response to a challenge to jurisdiction, plaintiffs alleged that Schmückle “transacted business” within Michigan and that his “actions and activities led to consequences” in Michigan. Plaintiffs asserted that: Schmückle was responsible for “worldwide operations,” including MAG US; they (Michigan residents) reported directly to Schmückle by email and phone; Schmückle was involved in determining the Michigan facility's operations, budgets, work flow, and sales priorities; he charged MAG US an annual fee, used to pay part of his salary and expenses; he reallocated work from the “consistently profitable” Michigan facility to the “less-profitable” MAG Germany operations and negatively affected the profitability of MAG US in Michigan; and he told MAG US leaders to prepare to transfer $10 million to MAG Germany. Schmückle allegedly visited Michigan twice as CEO, maintains a residence in Oregon, and sits on the boards of U.S.-based three companies. The district court, without holding an evidentiary hearing, dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that the record did not overcome the presumption that exercising personal jurisdiction over Schmückle in Michigan was reasonable. View "MAG IAS Holdings, Inc. v. Schmückle" on Justia Law

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S.H., the daughter of William and Chantal Holt, was born prematurely while the family was stationed at a United States Air Force (USAF) base in Spain. As a result of her premature birth, S.H. was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after the family returned to the United States. The Holts filed suit against the United States, alleging that officials at a USAF base in California negligently approved the family's request for command sponsored travel to a base in Spain ill-equipped to deal with Mrs. Holt's medical needs. The Holts also argued that S.H.'s injury first occurred upon their return to the United States. The district court awarded damages to the Holts. The court applied the foreign country exception of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2680(k), and held that an injury is suffered where the harm first impinges upon the body, even if it is later diagnosed elsewhere. Here, the undisputed facts of this case indicate that the force—the brain injury S.H. suffered at or near the time of her birth—impinged upon her body in Spain. Consequently, Spain is where the Holts' claims arose. The court concluded that S.H.'s cerebral palsy is derivative of the harm she sustained at birth. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "S. H. V. United States" on Justia Law

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After an arbitral tribunal in London found the Government of Belize in breach of a settlement agreement with The Bank of Belize Limited, the tribunal ordered that Belize pay the Bank a substantial monetary award. Belize subsequently petitioned for enforcement of the award in district court. The district court granted the petition and Belize appealed, raising multiple challenges. The court accorded Belize's arguments full consideration after careful examination of the record and found them either largely asked and answered by Circuit precedent, or otherwise properly resolved by the district court. The court rejected Belize's argument that the district court's enforcement of the arbitral award violated the New York Convention because it was "contrary to the public policy of" the United States pursuant to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards of June 10, 1958, art. V(2)(b), 21 U.S.T. 2517, T.I.A.S. 2517, T.I.A.S. No. 6997, 330 U.N.T.S. 3 (1970); 9 U.S.C. 207. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Belize Bank Limited v. Government of Belize" on Justia Law

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Neto, a Brazilian businessman, entered into a trust agreement with Wells Fargo in 2009 to purchase an aircraft for his business. Wells Fargo borrowed $6 million from 1st Source, pledging the aircraft as collateral. Neto signed a personal guarantee. Three years later, Brazilian tax authorities seized the plane. After Neto stopped paying, 1st Source sued him in an Indiana district court, then filed another lawsuit in Brazil, where the plane resides. Brazilian law permits prejudgment attachment of assets, so that Neto would have only three days to pay the debt after being served with a summons; if he failed to comply the court could seize as many assets as necessary to guarantee payment. Neto unsuccessfully sought to enjoin the Brazilian lawsuit on grounds that the guarantee did not permit duplicative litigation and that the Brazilian litigation was “oppressive.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of Neto’s subsequent motion for an emergency injunction pending appeal, finding that Neto had not shown a sufficient likelihood of prevailing on his claim that the Brazilian litigation was improper. The guarantee Neto signed proves that 1st Source reserves the option to sue Neto for the debt, “in any jurisdiction where the aircraft may be located.” He did not provide sufficient information about the Brazilian lawsuit to establish that it is duplicative of the Indiana suit. View "1st Source Bank v. Neto" on Justia Law

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In 2003, a 7-year-old Israeli girl was killed, her 3-year-old, American-citizen sister permanently disabled, and six Israeli members of their family were injured emotionally, when their minivan was shot up on a Jerusalem highway by members of Palestine Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group supported by the government of Iran. The survivors sued Iran under the Antiterrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. 2333, and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605A, eventually obtaining a $67 million default judgment. The plaintiffs issued federal and state subpoenas, seeking an order directing foreign parent banks to reveal Iranian assets held in any of their worldwide branches. The Japanese bank has branches in more than 40 countries; the French bank has branches in 75 countries. The banks provided the information only with respect to their 17 U.S. branches, which held no Iranian assets. The banks sought to quash the subpoenas. Plaintiffs argued that personal jurisdiction was irrelevant for enforcing subpoenas under Rule 45. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, in favor of the banks. To be entitled to use the federal district court in Chicago to obtain the information plaintiffs sought, they had to prove personal jurisdiction over the banks. The banks are not incorporated or headquartered in the U.S. and the subpoenas were not tailored to the banks’ U.S. presence or activities. View "Leibovitich v. Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ" on Justia Law