Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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In 2012, LaTele, a Venezuelan television corporation, acting through its president, Fraiz, sued the American television network Telemundo, claiming that Telemundo infringed LaTele’s copyrighted telenovela. While the lawsuit was pending in Miami, a Venezuelan criminal court appointed a governmental board, “La Junta” to displace Fraiz and manage the affairs of LaTele. Fraiz asked the district court to determine that he was the proper representative of LaTele and that La Junta should be excluded from participating in the lawsuit. In 2018, the district court lifted its stay, removed Fraiz’s attorneys from participation in the case, and affirmed that La Junta’s attorney was counsel of record.The Eleventh Circuit dismissed an appeal after holding that it had jurisdiction to entertain the matter. Under the collateral order doctrine, the district court’s order can be treated as final for purposes of appeal. The order conclusively determined an important issue that was completely separate from the merits of the copyright claim, and would otherwise be unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. However, La Junta and Telemundo challenged Fraiz’s standing to bring the appeal on behalf of LaTele. The district court correctly determined, based on its review of four foreign court orders, that La Junta has the lawful authority to manage the affairs of LaTele and this lawsuit. View "Latele Television, C.A. v. Telemundo Communications Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Turner, a Wisconsin resident, filed a putative class action against Costa, an Italian cruise operator, and its American subsidiary, alleging that their negligence contributed to an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the Costa Luminosa during his transatlantic voyage beginning on March 5, 2020. The Luminosa had evacuated a passenger, who subsequently died of COVID-19, from a cruise immediately preceding Turner’s cruise. Costa told passengers that the ship was safe. It did not hire any experts to verify that the ship had been sufficiently cleaned and allegedly failed to refuse boarding to individuals who had COVID-19 symptoms or had traveled to high-risk areas. On March 8, the Luminosa had docked to transport passengers with COVID-19 symptoms to the hospital but did not inform passengers of those circumstances, When passengers disembarked on March 19, 36 of the 75 passengers tested positive for COVID-19. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Turner’s complaint on forum non conveniens grounds. Turner's passage ticket contract included a forum selection clause requiring that all claims associated with his cruise be litigated in Genoa, Italy. Forum selection clauses are presumptively valid and enforceable; Turner failed to defeat the presumption by showing that the clause was induced by fraud or overreaching, that he would be deprived of his day in court because of inconvenience or unfairness, the chosen law would deprive him of a remedy or enforcement of the clause would contravene public policy.’ View "Turner v. Costa Crociere S.P.A." on Justia Law

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After R&R filed suit seeking to redeem bonds issued by Banco do Brasil, the district court dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and decided, in the alternative, that the bonds were no longer redeemable under Brazilian law.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court had subject-matter jurisdiction under the commercial-activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), because the issuance of the colonization bonds was a commercial activity and the Bank's refusal to honor those bonds caused a direct effect in the United States. However, the court concluded that the complaint is barred by the statute of limitations under Brazilian law. In this case, the statute of limitations ran in 1997, 20 years after maturity, and thus when R&R tried to redeem the colonization bonds in 2018, they were no longer enforceable. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and affirmed in part. View "R&R International Consulting LLC v. Banco Do Brasil, S.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, relatives of eight Bolivian civilians killed in 2003 during a period of civil crisis in Bolivia, filed suit under the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) against the former President of Bolivia and the former Defense Minister of Bolivia for the extrajudicial killings and wrongful deaths of their family members based on their alleged conduct in perpetuating the crisis. After the jury rendered its verdict, the district court granted defendants' renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law on the TVPA claims.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court conflated the standard for an extrajudicial killing with the theory of liability tying defendants to the decedents' deaths. The court also held that the evidence of deaths caused by a soldier acting under orders to use excessive or indiscriminate force could provide a legally sufficient foundation to support a TVPA claim. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to determine, in the first instance and under the correct standard, whether plaintiffs put forth sufficient evidence to show that the deaths were extrajudicial killings, and, if so, whether there is sufficient evidence to hold defendants liable for such killings under the command-responsibility doctrine. In regard to the wrongful-death claims, the court held that the district court erroneously admitted the State Department cables. Therefore, the court vacated and remanded for a new trial on the wrongful-death claims. View "Rojas Mamani v. Sanchez De Lozada Sanchez Bustamante" on Justia Law

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Thirty-nine plaintiffs—two American and thirty-seven foreign—filed suit agianst Citigroup, claiming that fraudulent cash advances lured them into investing in or contracting with Oceanografía and that either Citigroup or Oceanografía knowingly misrepresented Oceanografía's financial stability.The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of Citigroup's motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens, holding that the district court did not apply the deference owed to the domestic plaintiffs, and it erred in weighing the Gulf Oil private interest factors as to all the plaintiffs because Citigroup did not satisfy its burden. In this case, the court held that the district court mistakenly gave only "reduced" deference to the domestic plaintiffs' choice of forum. The court also held that Citigroup—which had the burden of persuasion—did not support its claims that most of the relevant documents and witnesses are located in Mexico. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings, including consideration of the United States' interests under the public interest factors. View "Otto Candies, LLC v. Citigroup, Inc." on Justia Law