Justia International Law Opinion Summaries
Cooper v. Tokyo Electric Power Co.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of claims brought by U.S. servicemembers and their families against TEPCO and GE, alleging that they were exposed to radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The Japanese Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage provides that the operator of a nuclear power plant is strictly liable for any damage caused by the operation of the power plant but no other person shall be liable. The panel held that Japan's Compensation Act was a liability-limiting statute with outcome-determinative implications and was substantive for Erie purposes. In this case, the district court did not err in proceeding with the full choice-of-law analysis at the motion-to-dismiss stage of the litigation. The panel applied California's three step "governmental interest" test in deciding the choice-of-law questions and ultimately concluded that the district court did not err when it decided that the laws of Japan, not California, govern plaintiffs' claims against GE. The panel likewise held that the district court did not err in proceeding with the choice-of-law analysis and finding that Japanese law also applies to plaintiffs' claims against TEPCO. Finally, having decided that Japanese law applies to the case and considering Japan's strong interests in the case being litigated in Japan, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the claims against TEPCO on international-comity grounds. View "Cooper v. Tokyo Electric Power Co." on Justia Law
Opati v. Republic of Sudan
In 1998, al Qaeda operatives detonated truck bombs outside the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Victims sued the Republic of Sudan under the state-sponsored terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(7)), which included a bar on punitive damages for suits under any of the sovereign immunity exceptions. In 2008, Congress amended the FSIA in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). NDAA section 1083(c)(2) creates a cause of action for acts of terror that provides for punitive damages; it gave effect to existing lawsuits that had been “adversely affected” by prior law “as if” they had been originally filed under the new section 1605A(c). Section 1083(c)(3) provided a time-limited opportunity for plaintiffs to file new actions “arising out of the same act or incident” as an earlier action and claim those benefits. The plaintiffs amended their complaint to include section 1605A(c) claims. The district court awarded the plaintiffs approximately $10.2 billion, including roughly $4.3 billion in punitive damages. The D.C. Circuit held that the plaintiffs were not entitled to punitive damages because Congress had included no statement in NDAA section 1083 clearly authorizing punitive damages for pre-enactment conduct. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded. Even assuming that Sudan may claim the benefit of the presumption of prospective effect, Congress was as clear as it could have been when it expressly authorized punitive damages under section 1605A(c) and explicitly made that new cause of action available to remedy certain past acts of terrorism. The court of appeals must also reconsider its decision concerning the availability of punitive damages for state law claims. View "Opati v. Republic of Sudan" on Justia Law
Sampedro v. Silver Point Capital, L.P.
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of respondents' motion to compel reciprocal discovery under 28 U.S.C. 1782. Respondents contend that they should have been awarded reciprocal discovery given their involvement and interest not only in the foreign proceeding that formed the basis of movant's section 1782 discovery request but also in another foreign proceeding. In light of the district court's broad discretion under section 1782, the court held that a district court need not consider procedural parity with respect to all possible foreign proceedings when determining whether to grant reciprocal discovery. Therefore, the court declined to read into section 1782 the obligation urged by respondents to consider all pending litigation. View "Sampedro v. Silver Point Capital, L.P." on Justia Law
City of Almaty v. Khrapunov
The City of Almaty, in Kazakhstan, filed suit against defendant and his family under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), alleging that they engaged in a scheme to defraud the city of millions of dollars. The City claimed that it was forced to spend money and resources in the United States to trace where its money was laundered. The district court dismissed the City's claim on the basis that it failed to state a domestic injury pursuant to the Supreme Court's recent decision in RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. European Community, 136 S. Ct. 2090 (2016). The Ninth Circuit held that the City failed to state any cognizable injury other than the foreign theft of its funds, and its voluntary expenditures were not proximately caused by defendants' acts of money laundering. In this case, the City's expenditure of funds to trace its allegedly stolen funds is a consequential damage of the initial theft suffered in Kazakhstan and is not causally connected to the predicate act of money laundering. View "City of Almaty v. Khrapunov" on Justia Law
OJSC Ukrnafta v. Carpatsky Petroleum Corp.
In an international oil and gas dispute, this appeal challenges the order confirming a private tribunal award of $147 million. At issue was whether an allegedly undisclosed change in the place of incorporation of one party from Texas to Delaware means there was never an agreement to arbitrate. After determining that the district court had jurisdiction to resolve the lawsuit, the Fifth Circuit upheld the order confirming the arbitration award and rejected Ukrnafta's defenses under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. The court held that Ukrnafta consented to the arbitration despite Carpatsky's twice identifying itself as a Delaware company, and thus its capacity defense under Article V(1)(a) failed; Ukrnafta's argument, under Article V(1)(b), that American courts cannot enforce the award because it was unable to present its case failed, where Ukrnafta has not identified anything about the arbitration that was fundamentally unfair; Ukrnafta's claims under Article V(1)(c) that the award exceeded the terms of submission were rejected; Ukrnafta's claims under the Article V nonrecognition factors were waived; enforcing the award would further American policy, rather than be contrary to public policy under Article V(2)(b); and Ukrnafta's manifest disregard defense failed. Likewise, the doctrine of claim preclusion would reach the same result with state law claims. View "OJSC Ukrnafta v. Carpatsky Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law
Servotronics, Inc. v. The Boeing Co.
Seeking evidence to use in a United Kingdom arbitration, Servotronics filed an application in the district court under 28 U.S.C. 1782 to obtain testimony from three Boeing employees residing in South Carolina. On appeal, Servotronics contends that the district court erred in ruling that the UK arbitral panel was not a "foreign tribunal" for purposes of section 1782 and thus it lacked authority to grant Servotronics' application to obtain testimony for use in the UK arbitration. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the arbitral panel in the United Kingdom is a foreign tribunal for purposes of section 1782. The court explained that the current version of the statute, as amended in 1964, manifests Congress' policy to increase international cooperation by providing U.S. assistance in resolving disputes before not only foreign courts but before all foreign and international tribunals. The court wrote that such a policy was intended to contribute to the orderly resolution of disputes both in the United States and abroad, elevating the importance of the rule of law and encouraging a spirit of comity between foreign countries and the United States. Furthermore, Boeing's argument to the contrary represents too narrow an understanding of arbitration, whether it is conducted in the United Kingdom or the United States. View "Servotronics, Inc. v. The Boeing Co." on Justia Law
Bugliotti v. Republic of Argentina
Plaintiffs filed suit seeking to recover unpaid principal amounts of defaulted Argentine sovereign debt. Plaintiffs are subscribers to the Republic of Argentina's 1994 sovereign debt offering who enrolled their bonds in a governmental tax‐credit program just prior to Argentina's 2001 default on the bonds. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's dismissal of their complaint on multiple alternative grounds. The Second Circuit held that the relevant question is not whether plaintiffs "own" the bonds but whether they may sue to enforce them. Moreover, the court held that, although the court has discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 44.1 to decide the relevant question of Argentine law in the first instance, the court also has discretion to remand so that the district court — which is better situated in these circumstances to implement Rule 44.1's flexible procedures for determining foreign law — may do so. Furthermore, the court did not think that the district court's reliance on the doctrine of adjudicative international comity as an alternative ground for dismissal was appropriate in these circumstances. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' damages claim. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' claim for injunctive relief. View "Bugliotti v. Republic of Argentina" on Justia Law
SAS Institute, Inc. v. World Programming Ltd.
This case stemmed from litigation between SAS and WPL, software developers that compete in the market for statistical analysis software. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of an expansion injunction and an anti-clawback injunction issued pursuant to its All Writs Act authority. Although the court respected the judicial system and judges of the United Kingdom, the court explained that the district court here needed to ensure that a money judgment reached in an American court under American law—based on damages incurred in America—was not rendered meaningless. In this case, the district court chose to enforce its judgment in the most measured terms, concentrating on the litigants' U.S. conduct and collection efforts. The court wrote that failing to take even these modest steps would have encouraged any foreign company and country to undermine the finality of a U.S. judgment. View "SAS Institute, Inc. v. World Programming Ltd." on Justia Law
Comcast Corp. v. International Trade Commission
The International Trade Commission (ITC) investigated a complaint under Tariff Act Section 337, alleging that Comcast’s customers directly infringe patents by using Comcast’s X1 system. The patents claim an interactive television program guide system for remote access to television programs. An ALJ found a violation, concluding that the X1 set-top boxes are imported by ARRIS and Technicolor and that Comcast is sufficiently involved with the design, manufacture, and importation of the products, such that it is an importer under Section 337. The ITC affirmed, stating that Comcast induced infringement and that Comcast "instructs, directs, or advises its customers on how to carry out direct infringement.” The ITC affirmed that ARRIS and Technicolor do not directly infringe because they do not provide a “remote access device” as required by the claims and do not contributorily infringe because the set-top boxes have substantial non-infringing uses. The ITC issued a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders directed to Comcast. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting Comcast’s arguments that its conduct is not actionable under Section 337 because Comcast’s inducing conduct “takes place entirely domestically, well after, and unrelated to," the importation and that Comcast does not itself import the articles. The ITC has authority (19 U.S.C. 1337(d)(1)) to issue an exclusion order that blocks the importation of articles manufactured and imported by ARRIS and Technicolor, despite its determination that they did not violate Section 337 and did not infringe the patents. View "Comcast Corp. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law
Tagger v. Strauss Group Ltd.
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff filed suit against Strauss for various common law contract and tort claims, alleging that Strauss falsely brought legal action against him in Israel which caused him to be prohibited from leaving Israel. The court held that 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2) does not confer diversity jurisdiction where a permanent resident alien sues a non‐resident alien, and that the 1951 Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between the United States and Israel does not otherwise confer federal jurisdiction in this lawsuit. The court concluded that plaintiff, a citizen of Israel who lives in Brooklyn as a lawful permanent resident, is an alien for the purpose of diversity jurisdiction and Strauss is an Israeli corporation with headquarters in Israel. View "Tagger v. Strauss Group Ltd." on Justia Law