Justia International Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Grupo Unidos por el Canal, S.A., et al. v. Autoridad del Canal de Panama
Following the disclosures of the new information, Grupo Unidos challenged the impartiality of the arbitrators before the International Court of Arbitration (“ICA”) of the International Chamber of Commerce. The ICA agreed that some arbitrators failed to make a few disclosures but, notably, did not find any basis for removal and rejected Grupo Unidos’s challenges on the merits. Thereafter, Grupo Unidos moved -- unsuccessfully -- for the vacatur of the awards in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Autoridad del Canal de Panama, in turn, cross-moved for confirmation of the awards, which the district court granted. Grupo Unidos appealed. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the International Court of Arbitration and the district court that Grupo Unidos has presented nothing that comes near the high threshold required for vacatur. Accordingly, the court affirmed the denial of vacatur and the confirmation of the awards. The court wrote that there is no indication in this record that Grupo Unidos did not have a robust opportunity to present evidence and confront the other side’s evidence. View "Grupo Unidos por el Canal, S.A., et al. v. Autoridad del Canal de Panama" on Justia Law
Corporacion AIC, SA v. Hidroelectrica Santa Rita S.A.
This case arose from a dispute between two Guatemalan companies, Corporación AIC, S.A., and Hidroeléctrica Santa Rita, S.A. Pursuant to a contract signed in March of 2012, Corporación AIC agreed to build a new hydroelectric power plant for Hidroeléctrica in Guatemala. Hidroeléctrica issued a force majeure notice that forced Corporación AIC to stop work on the project. Hidroeléctrica filed an arbitration proceeding in the International Court of Arbitration to recover advance payments it had made to Corporación AIC, and the latter counterclaimed for damages, costs, and other expenses. An arbitral panel ordered Corporación AIC to return some portion in advance payments but allowed it to keep what it had earned on the contract. Corporación AIC filed suit in federal court seeking to vacate the award.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment in favor of Hidroeléctrica and remanded for the district court to consider Corporación AIC’s Section 10(a)(4) contention. The court held that the district court correctly followed Industrial Risk and Inversiones, which constituted binding precedent at the time and declined to address Corporación AIC’s argument that the arbitral award should be vacated because the panel exceeded its powers under 9 U.S.C. Section 10(a)(4). View "Corporacion AIC, SA v. Hidroelectrica Santa Rita S.A." on Justia Law
PDVSA US Litigation Trust v. Lukoil Pan Americas LLC, et al.
This appeal involves a nonjusticiable political question: who has the authority to litigate in the name of the Venezuelan state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. The underlying action, brought by a litigation trust on behalf of Petróleos de Venezuela, alleged conspiracy, antitrust, cybercrime, and fraud claims against various individuals and entities. After the district court dismissed the action for lack of standing and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, an entity purporting to speak for Petróleos de Venezuela sought to substitute itself as the real party in interest. The entity’s board was appointed by Nicolás Maduro, who claims to be the president of Venezuela. But the United States Department of State has concluded that Maduro is not Venezuela’s legitimate political leader. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed because the district court could not grant the motion without addressing a nonjusticiable political question. The district court cannot question the validity of then-President Guaidó’s appointment of an alternative board of directors. So, under the political-question doctrine, it was powerless to grant the Maduro entity’s motion to substitute the entity as the real party in interest in contravention of the position taken by the United States Department of State. Further, the court wrote that the district court would not have jurisdiction to conduct the requested inquiry on remand. And even if the Department of State declared today that the Maduro entity is authorized to bring suit in Petróleos de Venezuela’s name, the court would still affirm because, under Article III, a justiciable case or controversy must exist “through all stages of the litigation,” including “at the time the complaint is filed.” View "PDVSA US Litigation Trust v. Lukoil Pan Americas LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Javier Garcia-Bengochea v. Carnival Corporation
Plaintiff is a U.S. citizen and a U.S. national, as that term is defined in 22 U.S.C. Section 6023(15). He claims to be the “rightful owner of an 82.5% interest in certain commercial waterfront real property in the Port of Santiago de Cuba,” identified by the Cuban government as La Marítima and Terminal Naviera. According to the complaints, the knowing and intentional conduct of Carnival and Royal Caribbean constitutes trafficking under Section 6023(13)(A). As a result, Plaintiff—who provided the cruise lines with written notice by certified mail of his intent to commence an action under Title III—claims that he is entitled to damages under Section 6082. The Eleventh Circuit granted the petition for panel rehearing and vacated our prior opinion. The court held that Plaintiff has standing to assert his Title III claims, but that those claims fail on the merits. The court explained that the Cuban government confiscated La Marítima prior to March 12, 1996, and because Plaintiff acquired his interest in the property through inheritance after that date, his claims failed. The court, therefore, affirmed the district court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings in favor of Carnival and Royal Caribbean. View "Javier Garcia-Bengochea v. Carnival Corporation" on Justia Law
Maria Dolores Canto Marti v. Iberostar Hoteles Y Apartamentos SL
In January 2020, Plaintiff sued Iberostar under the Helms-Burton Act, which grants the right to sue companies trafficking in property confiscated by the Cuban government. Plaintiff claims that Cuba seized her family’s hotel in 1961 and that Iberostar and the Cuban government now operate the hotel together.Iberostar successfully sought a stay of the proceedings, citing a regulation that prohibits participation in Helms-Burton suits—on pain of a fine that could reach 600,000 euros. Two years have passed since the stay, and Plaintiff sought to lift the stay. The district court denied her request.On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's decision, vacated the stay, and remanded the case with instructions it proceed. The court noted that the stay was indefinite and that the European Union agency tasked with resolving the matter has no timeline for its decision. As a result, the court concluded that the stay is immoderate and must be vacated. View "Maria Dolores Canto Marti v. Iberostar Hoteles Y Apartamentos SL" on Justia Law
Does 1 Through 976, et al. v. Chiquita Brands International, Inc., et al.
This appeal arises from a massive and complex multi-district litigation proceeding based on claims—brought in part under the Torture Victim Protection Act, 28 U.S.C. Section 1350, and Colombian law—that Chiquita Brands International and some of its executives provided financial support to the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, which murdered thousands of persons in Colombia. In a dozen bellwether cases, the district court issued a comprehensive order granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants. After excluding some of Plaintiffs’ evidence, the court ultimately concluded that the Plaintiffs “fail[ed] to identify any admissible evidence” in support of their allegations that the AUC had killed their respective decedents. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the district court abused its discretion in excluding much of their evidence and that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on their claims. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, reversed in part, and dismissed in part. With respect to the evidentiary rulings, the court concluded that the district court got some right and some wrong. As to the merits, the court held that most of the bellwether Plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to withstand summary judgment with respect to whether the AUC was responsible for the deaths of their decedents. On the cross-appeals, the court did not reach the arguments presented by the individual Defendants. View "Does 1 Through 976, et al. v. Chiquita Brands International, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
USA v. John J. Utsick
Following proceedings in district court, the trial court t entered a final judgment, finding Defendant liable, ordering him to disgorge over $4,000,000 in funds, and placing two of his entities under receivership in order to sell and reorganize assets to repay investors. Later, a federal grand jury sitting in Miami returned a superseding indictment that described consistent with the district court’s findings of fact. After an extradition request was filed by the United States, the Supreme Court of Brazil allowed him to be extradited. He returned to the United States, and on the eve of trial, following over a year of pretrial proceedings, Defendant entered into a plea agreement, agreeing to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud. The district court later sentenced Defendant to 220 months’ imprisonment and ordered him to pay $169,177,338 in restitution. On appeal, Defendant broadly argues: (1) that the custodial sentence imposed and the order of restitution violate the extradition treaty; and (2) that his guilty plea was not made freely and voluntarily. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court fully satisfied the core concerns of Rule 11, and the court could discern no reason to conclude that the district court plainly erred in finding that Defendant’s guilty plea was entered knowingly and voluntarily. The court explained that in this case, the record fully reflects that Defendant agreed to be sentenced subject to a 20-year maximum term, and his 220-month sentence is near the low end of his agreed-upon 210-to-240-month range. View "USA v. John J. Utsick" on Justia Law
Tecnicas Reunidas De Talara S.A.C. v. SSK Ingenieria Y Construccion S.A.C.
Técnicas Reunidas de Talara S.A.C., a Peruvian corporation, subcontracted with SSK Ingeniería y Construcción S.A.C., another Peruvian corporation, to provide electromechanical work on the refinery project. In response to a contract dispute, the arbitral panel issued a $40 million award to SSK. During the arbitration, two of Técnicas's attorneys withdrew and joined the opposing party’s law firm. More than a month later Técnicas objected in the International Court of Arbitration to alleged conflicts of interest held by the arbitrators, but its objection made no mention of the attorney side switching. The district court agreed with Técnicas that a public policy against attorney side-switching exists in the United States but concluded that the public policy was not contravened in this case because there was no actual prejudice and Técnicas waived its objection. At issue on appeal concerns whether a party to an international arbitration can obtain a vacatur of an adverse arbitral award because two of its attorneys withdrew and joined the opposing party’s law firm during the arbitral proceedings. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the judgment. The court explained that Técnicas waived its right to complain. The court explained thatTécnicas, the losing party in the arbitration, had knowledge of the attorney side-switching but did not object until Técnicas received an adverse award more than a year later, The court wrote that its conclusion is consistent with the well-settled principle “that a party may not sit idle through an arbitration procedure and then collaterally attack that procedure on grounds not raised . . . when the result turns out to be adverse.” View "Tecnicas Reunidas De Talara S.A.C. v. SSK Ingenieria Y Construccion S.A.C." on Justia Law
Keith Stansell, et al v. Samark Jose Lopez Bello, et al
Plaintiffs sued the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or FARC) and related parties under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2333. They based their claims on the FARC’s commission of offenses like kidnapping and murder in Colombia. Plaintiffs obtained a default judgment against Defendants and based on their submissions the district court awarded them significant damages. After obtaining that judgment, Plaintiffs sought to attach the assets of third parties blocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. The final judgment entered by the clerk described the monetary awards to each of the plaintiffs (including the trebled portions) as “compensatory damages.” Plaintiffs instituted garnishment proceedings in district court to attach the assets of Defendant and several limited liability companies he owns or controls. Plaintiffs filed a motion, in this case, asking the district court to amend the final judgment by removing the references to “compensatory damages.” They argued that the clerk of court erred in characterizing the trebled amounts of the awards as “compensatory damages” when the court itself had not described them in that way. The district court denied the Rule 60(a) motion in a written order. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial. The court explained that Rule 60(a) provides that a court may correct a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission whenever one is found in a judgment, order, or other parts of the record. Here, the court saw no abuse of discretion (or clear error) when the district court found that the intent was for the entire $318 million to be deemed compensatory. View "Keith Stansell, et al v. Samark Jose Lopez Bello, et al" on Justia Law
Global Marine Exploration, Inc., v. Republic of France
Global Marine Exploration, Inc. (“GME”), conducts marine salvage activities and discovers historic shipwreck sites in Florida’s coastal waters. GME entered into authorization agreements with the Florida Department of State (“FDOS”), to conduct salvage activities in Florida coastal wates. GME learned that FDOS was in contact with the Republic of France to recover the shipwreck sites. GME sued France, alleging claims for an in personam lien award, unjust enrichment, misappropriation of trade secret information, and interference with its rights and relations. France moved to dismiss GME’s amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”). The district court agreed with France, finding that the FSIA’s commercial activity exception did not apply, and dismissed GME’s claims. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s Rule 12(b)(1) dismissal and concluded that that the FSIA’s commercial activity exception applies and therefore the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over GME’s suit against France. The court reasoned that the nature of France’s activities here are commercial under the FSIA. France performed actions and entered into agreements with FDOS and others in connection with the shipwreck recovery project. These actions—fundraising, contracting with organizations and businesses to carry out excavations of shipwreck sites, and overseeing the logistics of the project—are commercial in nature and of the type negotiable among private parties. Further, FSIA’s commercial activity exception to foreign sovereign immunity applies because GME’s action is “based upon” France’s commercial activity in the United States. View "Global Marine Exploration, Inc., v. Republic of France" on Justia Law