Justia International Law Opinion Summaries
Barnet v. Ministry of Culture & Sports of the Hellenic Republic
The Second Circuit reversed the district court's decision concluding that it had subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) over plaintiffs' suit seeking declaratory relief against Greece. This action stemmed from a dispute between the parties over the ownership of an ancient Greek artifact of a bronze horse figurine. The court held that Greece's claim of ownership over the figurine was not in connection with any commercial activity by Greece outside of the United States. Therefore, the court held that the FSIA does not authorize jurisdiction over this dispute. The court remanded with instructions to dismiss the action. View "Barnet v. Ministry of Culture & Sports of the Hellenic Republic" on Justia Law
Pablo Star Ltd. v. The Welsh Government
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the Welsh Government's motion to dismiss claims of copyright infringement brought by Pablo Star over two photographs of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife, Caitlin Macnamara, on the ground of sovereign immunity. The Welsh Government argued that the commercial-activity exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) does not apply to its conduct promoting Welsh culture and tourism in New York. The court held, however, that the Welsh Government engaged in commercial activity in publicizing Wales-themed events in New York, and that the Welsh Government's activity had substantial contact with the United States. Therefore, Pablo Star's lawsuit falls within an exception to the immunity recognized in the FSIA. View "Pablo Star Ltd. v. The Welsh Government" on Justia Law
GE Energy Power Conversion France SAS v. Outokumpu Stainless USA, LLC
ThyssenKrupp entered into contracts with F. L. for the construction of mills at ThyssenKrupp’s Alabama steel manufacturing plant. Each contract contained an arbitration clause. F. L. entered into a subcontract with GE for the provision of motors. After the motors allegedly failed, Outokumpu (ThyssenKrupp's successor) sued GE, which moved to compel arbitration, relying on the arbitration clauses in the F. L.-ThyssenKrupp contracts. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards allows enforcement of an arbitration agreement only by the parties that actually signed the agreement. A unanimous Supreme Court reversed. The Convention does not conflict with domestic equitable estoppel doctrines that permit the enforcement of arbitration agreements by nonsignatories. The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) grants federal courts jurisdiction over actions governed by the Convention and provides that “Chapter 1 applies to actions and proceedings brought under this chapter to the extent that [Chapter 1] is not in conflict with this chapter or the Convention,” 9 U.S.C. 208. Chapter 1 does not “alter background principles of state contract law regarding the scope of agreements (including the question of who is bound by them).” The state-law equitable estoppel doctrines permitted under Chapter 1 do not “conflict with . . . the Convention,” which is silent on whether nonsignatories may enforce arbitration agreements under domestic doctrines such as equitable estoppel. Nothing in the Convention could be read to conflict with the application of domestic equitable estoppel doctrines. The court, on remand, may address whether GE can enforce the arbitration clauses under equitable estoppel principles and which body of law governs that determination. View "GE Energy Power Conversion France SAS v. Outokumpu Stainless USA, LLC" on Justia Law
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