Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

by
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

by
Plaintiff, who had endured many hardships in 2003 while trying to leave Baghdad, alleged, in a purported class action, that former officials of the President George W. Bush administration engaged in the war against Iraq in violation of the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350. The district court held that plaintiff had not exhausted her administrative remedies as required by the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, holding that the individual defendants were entitled to official immunity under the Westfall Act, 28 U.S.C. 2679(d)(1), which accords federal employees immunity from common-law tort claims for acts undertaken in the course of their official duties. The court upheld the Attorney General’s scope certification (determining that the employees were acting within the scope of their employment so that the action was one against the United States). The court rejected an argument that defendants could not be immune under the Westfall Act because plaintiff alleged violations of a jus cogens norm of international law from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law. Congress can provide immunity for federal officers for jus cogens violations. View "Saleh v. Bush" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, an Indian citizen and a Sikh, sought relief from extradition pursuant to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Plaintiff argued that the United States would violate 22 C.F.R. 95.2(b) if it extradited plaintiff to India because he would “more likely than not” be tortured there, that diplomatic assurances would be insufficient to guarantee that he would not be tortured, and that he would be denied a fair trial in India. The Department and the Indian government exchanged a series of diplomatic notes and, in those notes (“the Understanding”), the Indian government stated that plaintiff would not be tortured. The Department then surrendered plaintiff to the Indian government where he was arrested and subjected to torture. Plaintiff filed suit arguing that the Indian government violated the Understanding when it subjected him to post-extradition torture. The district court dismissed the complaint based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that the district court did not have jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim because the Indian Government did not waive their sovereign immunity through their diplomatic communications with the United States. The court explained that the Understanding is not an implicit waiver of sovereign immunity by the Indian government. Not only does the Understanding not match any of the three circumstances that ordinarily give rise to an implied waiver, but it also does not demonstrate that India intended the Understanding to be enforceable in United States courts. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Barapind v. Government of the Republic of India" on Justia Law

by
This dispute stems from plaintiff's attempt to protect his copyright in photographs of Pablo Picasso's artworks after an American art editor (Wofsy) reproduced the photographic images. Plaintiff received a judgment in French court of two million euros in "astreinte" against Wofsy. Plaintiff then sought to enforce the judgment in federal court in California under the California Uniform Foreign-Court Monetary Judgment Recognition Act, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 1713 et seq. The court held that Fed. R. Civ. P. 44.1 authorizes district courts to consider foreign legal materials outside the pleadings in ruling on a motion to dismiss because Rule 44.1 treats foreign law determinations as questions of law, not fact. In this case, the district court did not err in considering expert declarations on the content of French law in ruling on Wofsy’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion. The court concluded that the district court erred in concluding that “the award of an astreinte in this case constitutes a penalty for purposes of the [Uniform Recognition Act].” The court held that the astreinte awarded by the French courts to plaintiff falls within the Uniform Recognition Act as a judgment that “[g]rants . . . a sum of money.” In this case, the astreinte was not a “fine or other penalty” for purposes of the Act, and accordingly the district court erred in concluding otherwise. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded. View "De Fontbrune v. Wofsy" on Justia Law

by
Lien Claimants attempted to collect on valid judgments they hold against Iran for their injuries arising out of terrorism sponsored by Iran. Lien Claimants seek to attach a $2.8 million judgment that the Ministry obtained in an underlying arbitration with an American company, Cubic. The district court granted Lien Claimants’ motion to attach the Cubic Judgment. The court held that the United States does not violate its obligations under the Algiers Accords by permitting Lien Claimants to attach the Cubic Judgment. The court also held that the Cubic Judgment is a blocked asset pursuant to President Obama’s 2012 Executive Order No. 13359 subject to attachment and execution under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), 28 U.S.C. 1610 note. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "The Ministry of Defense v. Frym" on Justia Law