Justia International Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Warfaa v. Ali
Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, a colonel in the Somali National Army, under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. 1350, and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (TVPA), 28 U.S.C.1350, alleging several violations of international law after a group of soldiers kidnapped him from his home in northern Somalia. The district court dismissed the ATS claims and allowed the TVPA claims to proceed, holding that defendant was not entitled to immunity as a foreign official. Both parties appealed. The court concluded that plaintiff has failed to allege a claim which touches and concerns the United States to support ATS jurisdiction, and therefore the district court did not err in dismissing the ATS counts. The court also agreed with the district court that defendant lacked foreign official immunity for jus cogens violations under Yousuf v. Samantar. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Warfaa v. Ali" on Justia Law
Simon v. Republic of Hungary
Plaintiffs, fourteen Jewish survivors of the Hungarian Holocaust, filed suit against the Republic of Hungary and the Hungarian state-owned railway arising from defendants’ participation in - and perpetration of - the Holocaust. The district court dismissed the suit, concluding that the 1947 Peace Treaty between the Allied Powers and Hungary set forth an exclusive mechanism for Hungarian Holocaust victims to obtain recovery for their property losses, and that permitting plaintiffs’ lawsuit to proceed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1603 et seq., would conflict with the peace treaty’s terms. The court held that the peace treaty poses no bar to plaintiffs’ lawsuit, and the FSIA's treaty exception does not preclude this action. The court concluded, however, that the FSIA’s expropriation exception affords plaintiffs a pathway to pursue certain of their claims: those involving the taking of plaintiffs’ property in the commission of genocide against Hungarian Jews. Because those expropriations themselves amount to genocide, they qualify as takings of property “in violation of international law” within the meaning of the FSIA’s expropriation exception. Finally, plaintiffs’ claims do not constitute nonjusticiable political questions falling outside of the Judiciary’s cognizance. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Simon v. Republic of Hungary" on Justia Law
Jesner v. Arab Bank
Plaintiffs filed suit under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 18 U.S.C. 2333(a), the Alien Tort Statute Act (ATS), 28 U.S.C. 1350, and federal common law, seeking judgments against Arab Bank for allegedly financing and facilitating the activities of organizations that committed the attacks that caused plaintiffsʹ injuries. The district court entered judgments on the pleadings as to the ATS claims. On appeal, plaintiffs argued principally that this Circuitʹs opinion in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (Kiobel I), when analyzed in light of the Supreme Courtʹs decision in Kiobel II, which was affirmed on other grounds, is no longer ʺgood law,ʺ or at least, does not control this case. The court declined to conclude that Kiobel II overruled Kiobel I on the issue of corporate liability under the ATS. The court noted that Kiobel II appears to suggest that the ATS allows for some degree of corporate liability. The court went on to say that one panelʹs overruling of the holding of a case decided by a previous panel is perilous. The court affirmed on the basis of Kiobel I. Finally, the court concluded that the district court acted within its discretion in declining to permit the plaintiffs to amend their complaints. View "Jesner v. Arab Bank" on Justia Law
United States v. Nitek Elecs., Inc.
Between 2001 and 2004, Nitek Electronics, Inc. entered thirty-six shipments of pipe fitting components used for gas meters into the United States from China. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“Customs”) claimed that the merchandise was misclassified and issued Nitek a final penalty claim stating that the tentative culpability was gross negligence. Customs then referred the matter to the United States Department of Justice (“Government”) to bring a claim against Nitek in the Court of International Trade to enforce the penalty. The Government brought suit against Nitek to recover lost duties, antidumping duties, and a penalty based on negligence under 19 U.S.C. 1592. Nitek moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. The court denied dismissal of the claims to recover lost duties and antidumping duties but did dismiss the Government’s claim for a penalty based on negligence, concluding that the Government had failed to exhaust all administrative remedies under 19 U.S.C. 1592 by not having Customs demand a penalty based on negligence, instead of gross negligence. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that the statutory framework of section 1592 does not allow the Government to bring a penalty claim based on negligence in court because such a claim did not exist at the administrative level. View "United States v. Nitek Elecs., Inc." on Justia Law
OBB Personenverkehr AG v. Sachs
Respondent, a California resident, filed suit against OBB, an Austrian state-owned railway, after she suffered injuries from falling off the railroad tracks at the Innsbruck, Austria, train station. Respondent had purchased a Eurail pass over the Internet from a Massachusetts-based travel agent. The district court granted OBB's motion to dismiss pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(2). The Ninth Circuit reversed, concluding that the Eurail pass sale by the travel agent could be attributed to OBB through common law principles of agency, and that respondent’s suit was “based upon” that Eurail pass sale. The Court held, however, that respondent's suit falls outside the commercial activity exception and is barred by sovereign immunity where the suit is not "based upon" the sale of the Eurail pass for purposes of section 1605(a)(2), and respondent's contention that her claims are "based upon" OBB's entire railway enterprise is forfeited. In this case, respondent's action is "based upon" the railway's conduct in Innsbruck. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit. View "OBB Personenverkehr AG v. Sachs" on Justia Law
Posted in: Injury Law, International Law, U.S. Supreme Court
Harrison v. Republic of Sudan
Plaintiffs, injured sailors and their spouses, filed suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1330, 1602 et seq., alleging that al Qaeda was responsible for the attack of the U.S.S. Cole and that the Republic of Sudan had provided material support to al Qaeda. Plaintiffs subsequently registered the default judgment and then sought to enforce it against funds held by New York banks. The district court issued three turnover orders. The court affirmed and held that (1) service of process on the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs via the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., complied with the FSIAʹs requirement that service be sent to the head of the ministry of foreign affairs, and (2) the District Court did not err in issuing the turnover orders without first obtaining either a license from the Treasury Departmentʹs Office of Foreign Assets Control or a Statement of Interest from the Department. View "Harrison v. Republic of Sudan" on Justia Law
Bennett v. Bank Melli
Plaintiffs, four groups of individuals, hold separate judgments obtained in U.S. courts against the Republic of Iran, based on various terrorist attacks that occurred between 1990 and 2002. The state-sponsored exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1330, abrogated a foreign sovereign's immunity from judgment, but not its immunity from collection. Thus, terrorism victims had a right without a meaningful remedy. Section 201(a) of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), Pub L. No. 107-297, 201(a), and 28 U.S.C. 1610(g) addressed this loophole. Section 201 allowed victims to satisfy such judgments through attachment of blocked assets of terrorist parties and Section 1610(g) extended the TRIA’s abrogation of asset immunity to funds that were not blocked. The court agreed with the Second Circuit that it is “clear beyond cavil that Section 201(a) of the TRIA provides courts with subject matter jurisdiction over post-judgment execution and attachment proceedings against property held in the hands of an instrumentality of the judgment-debtor, even if the instrumentality is not itself named in the judgment.” Further, section 1610(g) makes unmistakably clear that whether or not an instrumentality is an alter ego is irrelevant to determining whether its assets are attachable. Therefore, section 201 of the TRIA and section 1610(g) permit victims of terrorism to collect money they’re owed from instrumentalities of the state that sponsored the attacks. Nothing in the text of the FSIA, Rule 19 or the Supreme Court’s retroactivity cases compels a different result. The district court correctly denied Bank Melli’s motion to dismiss and the court affirmed the judgment. View "Bennett v. Bank Melli" on Justia Law
Auffert v. Capitales Tours
In 2009, on Highway 101 in Monterey County, a bus driver lost control of the vehicle, which collided with bridge rails. The bus, carrying 34 French tourists, rolled; 18 occupants were ejected. Several were thrown over the bridge onto railroad tracks. The driver and four passengers were killed; 21 were severely injured. Capitales Tours and other defendants moved to dismiss or stay California lawsuits, asserting that France was the suitable forum. Plaintiffs argued that most of the documents and witnesses were in California, and that medical personnel and hospitals would likely receive nothing if the cases were transferred. There were more than $5 million in outstanding medical bills. The court found that public and private interest factors favored France because plaintiffs sought application of the French Tourism Code and would require translation. The court stayed the actions for one year. If France accepted jurisdiction, the actions would be dismissed. Capitales initiated proceedings in Paris, but the pretrial judge invoked lis pendens, because the Monterey court had not completely declined jurisdiction. While appeal was pending in France, the California court of appeal affirmed the stay. On remittitur, Capitales moved to dismiss, citing plaintiffs’ failure to initiate proceedings in France and resistance to their jurisdiction. The court dismissed. The court of appeal reversed, holding that further proceedings are necessary before dismissal. View "Auffert v. Capitales Tours" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Injury Law, International Law
Singh v. Caribbean Airlines Ltd.
Plaintiff filed a negligence action against CAL, an international airline based in Trinidad and Tobago. CAL is Trinidad and Tobago’s national carrier and it is majority-owned by the Minister of Finance of Trinidad and Tobago (Minister). At issue was whether CAL qualifies for jury immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1330. Because the court concluded that the district court correctly held that the Minister is a political subdivision of Trinidad and Tobago, CAL qualifies as an agency or instrumentality of Trinidad and Tobago, and the district court’s strike of plaintiff’s jury demand was not erroneous. Therefore, the court affirmed the order and the final judgment. View "Singh v. Caribbean Airlines Ltd." on Justia Law
Balintulo v. Ford Motor Co.
Plaintiffs filed suit under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. 1350, against various corporations for allegedly aiding and abetting crimes committed during apartheid by the South African government against South Africans within South Africa's sovereign territory. The court held that knowledge of or complicity in the perpetration of a crime under the law of nations (customary international law) - absent evidence that a defendant purposefully facilitated the commission of that crime - is insufficient to establish a claim of aiding and abetting liability under the ATS; it is not a violation of the law of nations to bid on, and lose, a contract that arguably would help a sovereign government perpetrate an asserted violation of the law of nations; allegations of general corporate supervision are insufficient to rebut the presumption against extraterritoriality and establish aiding and abetting liability under the ATS; and, in this case, plaintiffs’ amended pleadings do not establish federal jurisdiction under the ATS because they do not plausibly allege that defendants themselves engaged in any “relevant conduct” within the United States to overcome the presumption against extraterritorial application of the ATS. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Balintulo v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law