Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Hardee's after their six-year-old son was electrocuted by an exposed, electrified wire at one of defendant's restaurants and died. Hardee's moved for dismissal based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens, which the district court granted.The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, concluding that, although its sister circuits take varying approaches to timeliness, under either approach, Hardee's filed a motion that was sufficiently untimely to warrant reversal. In this case, for 18 months, Hardee's knew the essential facts supporting its motion to dismiss. The court explained that the assertion that Missouri is an inconvenient forum for Hardee's rings hollow because of its long delay in filing its motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens. The court concluded that, under these facts, the motion should have been filed earlier than 18 months after plaintiffs filed their complaint and earlier than the end of the discovery period prior to trial. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hersh v. CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellants challenge the district court's dismissal of their claims against Ukraine for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). Appellants' claims stemmed from Ukraine's "total destruction" of their property for the construction of a road and railway bridge project.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Ukraine based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the district court correctly determined that appellants' lawsuit does not fall within the FSIA's expropriation exception. With respect to Appellants Luxexpress–II and the Ivanenkos, their claims are barred by the domestic takings rule. The court explained that, although the domestic takings rule does not apply to Alamo Group, it failed to show that its property is "owned or operated" by an instrumentality of Ukraine. In this case, even assuming arguendo, that the Ukraine South–Western Railway occupies the land that Luxexpress–II had leased, there are no allegations that it "owned or operated" Alamo Group's property. The court also concluded that appellants cannot satisfy the FSIA's commercial activity exception where the allegations describe conduct that is quintessentially sovereign and which could not have been carried out by a private participant in the marketplace. Therefore, Ukraine's alleged conduct was not in connection with commercial activity. Finally, the court concluded that Ukraine did not waive its sovereign immunity and rejected appellants' claims to the contrary. View "Ivanenko v. Yanukovich" on Justia Law

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Respondents-Appellants DynaResource de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. and DynaResource, Inc. (“DynaResources”) appealed the district court’s confirmation of an arbitration award in Applicant-Appellee Goldgroup’s favor. This case involves a protracted dispute over a contract relating to a gold mining operation in Mexico. Goldgroup is a subsidiary of a Canadian company with a portfolio of projects in Mexico. DynaUSA, a Texas-based company, incorporated DynaMexico specifically for the purpose of developing the San Jose de Gracia property in the Sinaloa region of Northern Mexico. In 2006, Goldgroup and DynaResources entered into an Earn In/Option Agreement (the “Option Agreement”) which gave Goldgroup the right to earn up to a 50 percent equity interest in DynaMexico if Goldgroup invested a total of $18 million in four phases over approximately four years. The Option Agreement contained a dispute resolution provision specifying that “[a]ll questions or matters in dispute under this Agreement shall be submitted to binding arbitration . . . in Denver, Colorado under the Rules of the American Arbitration Association (‘AAA’) by a single arbitrator selected by the parties.” The Option Agreement also states that Mexican law applies “in respect to the shares of DynaMexico and the acquisition thereof,” and that venue and jurisdiction for any dispute under the Option Agreement would be in Denver. In 2011, Goldgroup exercised its option, became a 50 percent shareholder in DynaMexico, and appointed two directors. However, before the parties could agree on the fifth director, their relationship broke down due to a dispute over management issues. In 2012, DynaResources filed the first of numerous lawsuits between the parties; Goldgroup defended in part by arguing that DynaResources’s claims were subject to arbitration. Finding no reversible error to the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "Goldgroup Resources v. Dynaresource De Mexico" on Justia Law

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Mary Clare Griffin purchased a bottle of Italian wine, which broke in her hands as she attempted to open it, causing substantial injuries. Griffin and her son, a minor who witnessed the event, brought a product liability suit against Zignago Vetro S.P.A. (Zignago), the Italian manufacturer of the wine bottle; Marchesi Antinori SRL (Antinori), the Italian wine company that purchased the bottle from Zignago, filled it with wine, and exported it to the United States; Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Ltd. (Ste. Michelle), the United States importer; S & C Importers and Distributors, Inc. (S&C), the Idaho distributor who purchased the bottle from Ste. Michelle; and, Albertson’s LLC (Albertson’s), the retailer that sold the bottle to Griffin. Zignago successfully moved the district court to dismiss Griffin’s complaint based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. Griffin appealed the district court’s decision, asking the Court of Appeal to apply the personal jurisdiction framework established by World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980). Griffin also appealed the district court’s order granting summary judgment to Antinori and Ste. Michelle on the grounds that Griffin failed to meet her burden to show a prima facie case for a product liability claim. Additionally, Griffin appealed several adverse discovery rulings. The Idaho Supreme Court found the correct test when determining personal jurisdictional issues remained the “stream of commerce” test adopted by the United States Supreme Court in World-Wide Volkswagen. Applying that test to the case here, the Court reversed the district court’s decision to grant Zignago’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court affirmed the district court’s decision granting Antinori’s and Ste. Michelle’s motions for summary judgment, finding it did not abuse its discretion in failing to grant Griffin’s motion to compel discovery against Antinori and Ste. Michelle. View "Griffin v. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates LTD." on Justia Law

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Wang initiated the dissolution of marriage proceedings against Zhou. The parties have a daughter, born in 2013 in China. Daughter lived primarily in China with Zhou but made frequent, extended trips to the U.S. to visit Wang, who worked in California. The court assumed emergency jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA, Fam. Code 3400): Daughter would return to China with Zhou, and then return to California for extended periods. The parties agreed they would either register the California order or create an identical order in China "so that there will be a fully enforceable order in both jurisdictions.”In 2018, Zhou sought to register a Chinese judgment. Zhou had alleged to the Chinese court that Wang “tricked” her; that court denied Wang’s request to implement the California judgment and determined that Zhou should have sole custody. Wang opposed the registration of the order and asked the court to order Zhou to return Daughter to the U.S. for visitation. Wang had participated in the Chinese proceedings and was appealing the Chinese judgment. The court ordered Zhou to comply with the 2016 order and denied Zhou’s request to register the Chinese judgment.The court of appeal affirmed. The trial court did not explicitly rule that it had UCCJEA jurisdiction, nor did Wang argue that the court had superior jurisdiction over the Chinese court regarding child custody. The court properly denied registration because Wang established that the Chinese court, as a court with jurisdiction, stayed the judgment. View "Marriage of Wang & Zhou" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the operative amended complaints in two actions seeking to hold defendant bank liable under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 (ATA), for providing banking services to a charitable organization with alleged ties to Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) alleged to have committed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel in 2001-2004. The actions also seek to deny leave to amend the complaints to allege aiding-and-abetting claims under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).The court concluded that 18 U.S.C. 2333(a) principles announced in Linde v. Arab Bank, PLC, 882 F.3d 314 (2d Cir. 2018), were properly applied here. The court explained that, in order to establish NatWest's liability under the ATA as a principal, plaintiffs were required to present evidence sufficient to support all of section 2331(1)'s definitional requirements for an act of international terrorism. The court saw no error in the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs failed to proffer such evidence and thus NatWest was entitled to summary judgment dismissing those claims. The court also concluded that the district court appropriately assessed plaintiffs' request to add JASTA claims, given the undisputed evidence adduced, in connection with the summary judgment motions, as to the state of NatWest's knowledge. Therefore, based on the record, the district court did not err in denying leave to amend the complaints as futile on the ground that plaintiffs could not show that NatWest was knowingly providing substantial assistance to Hamas, or that NatWest was generally aware that it was playing a role in Hamas's acts of terrorism. The court dismissed the cross-appeal as moot. View "Weiss v. National Westminster Bank PLC" on Justia Law

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In 1994, a California corporation purchased and registered the domain name and trademarks for “France.com.” Twenty years later, the corporation initiated a lawsuit in France, challenging a Dutch company’s use of the France.com trademark. The French Republic and its tourism office intervened, seeking to protect their country’s Internet identity and establish its right to the domain name. French trial and appellate courts declared the French Republic the rightful owner of the domain name. In the U.S., the corporation sued the French entities, which asserted sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1604. The district court denied a motion to dismiss, concluding that immunity “would be best raised after discovery.”The Fourth Circuit reversed, directing the district court to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. The court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the appeal because the district court rested its order not on a failure to state a claim but on a denial of sovereign immunity, which constitutes an appealable collateral order. Neither FSIA’s “commercial activity” exception nor its “expropriation” exception applies. It is not clear that the French State’s actions in obtaining the website in judicial proceedings constitute “seizure” or an “expropriation” and they clearly do not constitute “commercial activity.” The corporation itself invoked the power of the French courts; only because it did so could the French State intervene in that action to obtain the challenged result. View "France.com, Inc. v. The French Republic" on Justia Law

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Sharifi alleges the U.S. Army took his land when it built Combat Outpost Millet in Afghanistan in 2010. The government asserted that Sharifi’s Fifth Amendment complaint was “vague and ambiguous” because it did not specifically identify the property interest that the government allegedly took, that Sharifi had not provided a legal description of the land, a deed, or other documents that would allow the government to identify the location. The Claims Court instructed Sharifi to file an amended complaint. Sharifi alleged that government records, verified by the District Governor of Arghandab, showed that his grandfather owned the land on which the Army built COP Millet: Ownership of the land passed to Sharifi and his siblings, who subdivided the land by a 2004 inheritance agreement. The government submitted six declarations, including several witness declarations and an expert declaration on Afghan law. The Claims Court dismissed Sharifi’s amended complaint for failure to show a cognizable property interest.The Federal Circuit affirmed. The government records attached to Sharifi’s amended complaint and the 2004 inheritance agreement do not constitute proof of land ownership under the laws of Afghanistan. Even accepting as true all factual allegations in Sharifi’s amended complaint, the amended complaint does not contain sufficient facts to state a plausible takings claim. View "Sharifi v. United States" on Justia Law

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German Jewish art dealers owned a collection of medieval relics. Their heirs allege that the Nazi government unlawfully coerced the consortium into selling the collection to Prussia for a third of its value. The relics are currently maintained by an instrumentality of the Federal Republic of Germany and displayed at a Berlin museum. After unsuccessfully seeking compensation in Germany, the heirs brought claims in the U.S. Germany argued that the claims did not fall under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for “property taken in violation of international law,” 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3) because a sovereign’s taking of its own nationals’ property is not unlawful under the international law of expropriation. The heirs countered that the purchase was an act of genocide, a violation of international human rights law. The D. C. Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to dismiss.The Supreme Court vacated. Under the expropriation exception, a foreign sovereign’s taking of its own nationals’ property remains a domestic affair. Historically, a sovereign’s taking of a foreign national’s property implicated international law because it constituted an injury to the state of the alien’s nationality. A domestic taking did not interfere with relations among states. The FSIA’s expropriation exception emphasizes property and property-related rights, while human rights violations are not mentioned. Germany’s interpretation of the exception is more consistent with the FSIA’s goal of codifying the restrictive theory of sovereign immunity, under which immunity extends to a sovereign’s public, but not private, acts. Other FSIA exceptions confirm Germany’s position; those exceptions would be of little consequence if human rights abuses could be packaged as violations of property rights and brought within the expropriation exception. View "Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp" on Justia Law

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Baan Rao Thai Restaurant and plaintiffs seek review of a consular officer's decision to deny visas for plaintiffs, asserting their claims fall within one of the consular nonreviewability doctrine's narrow exceptions.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint on the merits, rejecting plaintiffs' contention that the Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations between the United States and Thailand expressly provides that judicial review is available. The court concluded that access provisions were longstanding and well understood at the time the U.S.-Thailand Treaty was entered into—and that understanding was that the provisions relate to procedural rights. In this case, plaintiffs' argument seeks to fashion a longstanding, common and well understood treaty provision into something it is not. The court also explained, as recently clarified by the United States Supreme Court, that a dismissal pursuant to the consular nonreviewability doctrine is a dismissal on the merits. View "Baan Rao Thai Restaurant v. Pompeo" on Justia Law