Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law
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Appellees hold a Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA) judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Based on that judgment, Appellees moved for a writ of execution against the assets of Kuwait Finance House (KFH) Malaysia in district court. The district court granted the writ before making any findings as to whether KFH Malaysia is an “agency or instrumentality” of Iran or whether the assets at issue are “blocked.” The primary issue on appeal is whether the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (TRIA) permits those assets to be executed prior to such findings.   The Second Circuit denied Appellees’ motion to dismiss the appeal, denied KFH Malaysia’s petition for a writ of mandamus, vacated the order granting the writ of execution, and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. The court explained to be entitled to attachment or execution under the TRIA a plaintiff must first establish defendant’s status as an agency or instrumentality. Here, these procedures were not followed. Article 52 permits parties to commence turnover proceedings to enforce money judgments. Below, that turnover proceeding commenced, but the district court granted the relief sought in that proceeding—a writ of execution—before it considered the antecedent issue of whether KFH Malaysia is an agency or instrumentality of Iran or whether the assets at issue are “blocked.” Without such findings, there has been no showing that KFH Malaysia is in possession of property. Accordingly, Appellees failed to meet the statutory and, and consequently, they failed to establish that they were entitled to a writ of execution. View "Christine Levinson et al. v. Kuwait Finance House (Malaysia) Berhad" 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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Plaintiff-Appellee Preble-Rish Haiti, S.A. filed this case pursuant to Rule B of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It sought to attach assets to secure a partial final arbitration award against the Republic of Haiti and the Bureau de Monétisation de Programmes d’Aide au Developpement (BMPAD). Garnishee BB Energy USA, L.L.C.(BB Energy) admitted to holding credits belonging to BMPAD located in the Southern District of Texas.   Although BB Energy raised BMPAD’s sovereign immunity from prejudgment attachment again, the district court stated it had already decided that issue and cited its August 10, 2021 order. BB Energy appealed the January 4, 2022 order pursuant to the collateral order doctrine   The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and vacated the writ of attachment. The court explained that to satisfy Section 1610(d), an explicit waiver of immunity from prejudgment attachment must be express, clear, and unambiguous. Anything short of that is insufficient. Here, because there is no such explicit waiver in the contract or elsewhere, the district court erred in concluding BMPAD waived its sovereign immunity from prejudgment attachment. View "Preble-Rish Haiti, S.A. v. BB Energy USA" on Justia Law

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Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited, (“Esso”) the Nigerian subsidiary of an international oil corporation, asked federal courts in the United States to enforce an arbitral award of $1.8 billion, plus interest, against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (“NNPC”) that Nigerian courts have partially set aside. Courts in Nigeria previously set aside the Award in part. Nonetheless, Esso seeks enforcement of the entire Award under the New York Convention. NNPC urges dismissal of Esso’s suit for lack of personal jurisdiction and on the basis of forum non-conveniens, and it opposes the petition for enforcement on the merits.   The Second Circuit determined affirmed the district court’s rulings because its factual determinations were meticulous and its legal conclusions sound. The court held that NNPC has standing on cross-appeal to challenge the denial of its motion to dismiss, even though the district court ruled in its favor on the merits. NNPC has such standing because our partial vacatur on the merits revives the action against it, and it may face an adverse ruling on remand. On considering NNPC’s challenges to the district court’s denial of its motion to dismiss for want of personal jurisdiction and forum non-conveniens.   The court wrote that although the district court should have broadened its analysis under the Pemex standard, it ultimately agreed with its conclusion that U.S. courts owe the Nigerian judgments setting aside the Award comity.  The court concluded, however, that the district court went too far by refusing to enforce not only those parts of the Award that the Nigerian courts set aside but also those parts of the Award that remain viable under the Nigerian judgments. View "Esso Expl. and Prod. Nigeria Ltd. v. Nigerian Nat'l Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Bainbridge Fund Ltd. is the beneficial owner of bonds issued by the Republic of Argentina. Argentina defaulted on these bonds back in 2001, but Bainbridge didn’t sue to recover them until 2016. The district court dismissed Bainbridge’s claims as untimely under New York’s six-year statute of limitations for contract actions and the Second Circuit’s nonprecedential decisions. Bainbridge appealed, asking the Second Circuit to reconsider those decisions. Specifically, Bainbridge argues that (1) the twenty-year statute of limitations for recovery on certain bonds under N.Y. C.P.L.R. 34 Section 211(a) applies to its claims against Argentina; and (2) even if the six-year limitations period for contract actions applies, it was tolled under N.Y. Gen. Oblig Law Section 17-101 because Argentina “acknowledged” this debt when it publicly listed the bonds in its quarterly financial statements (the “Quarterly Reports”).   The Second Circuit rejected Plaintiff’s arguments. First, the twenty-year statute of limitations does not apply to claims on Argentine bonds because a foreign sovereign is not a “person” under N.Y. C.P.L.R. Section 211(a). Second, tolling under N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law Section 17-101 is inapplicable because the Quarterly Reports did not “acknowledge” the debt at issue in a way that reflected an intention to pay or seek to influence the bondholders’ behavior. To the contrary, Argentina repeatedly stated that the bonds “may remain in default indefinitely.” Bainbridge’s claims are thus time-barred. View "Bainbridge Fund Ltd. v. The Republic of Argentina" on Justia Law

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Parties involved in arbitration proceedings abroad sought discovery in the U.S. under 28 U.S.C. 1782(a), which authorizes a district court to order the production of evidence “for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal.” One case, a contract dispute between private parties, was proceeding under the Arbitration Rules of the German Institution of Arbitration and involves a private dispute-resolution organization. The second case is proceeding against Lithuania before an ad hoc arbitration panel, in accordance with the Arbitration Rules of the U.N. Commission on International Trade Law.The Supreme Court held that the parties are not entitled to discovery. Only a governmental or intergovernmental adjudicative body constitutes a “foreign or international tribunal” under 28 U.S.C. 1782; the bodies at issue do not qualify. While a “tribunal” need not be a formal “court,” attached to the modifiers “foreign or international,” the phrase is best understood to refer to an adjudicative body that exercises governmental authority. The animating purpose of section 1782 is comity: Permitting federal courts to assist foreign and international governmental bodies promotes respect for foreign governments and encourages reciprocal assistance. Extending section 1782 to include private bodies would be in significant tension with the Federal Arbitration Act, which governs domestic arbitration; section 1782 permits much broader discovery than the FAA.The Court acknowledged that the arbitration panel involving Lithuania presents a harder question. The option to arbitrate is contained in an international treaty rather than a private contract but the two nations involved did not intend that an ad hoc panel exercise governmental authority. View "ZF Automotive U. S., Inc. v. Luxshare, Ltd." 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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Cassirer inherited a Pissaro Impressionist painting. After the Nazis came to power in Germany, she surrendered the painting to obtain an exit visa. She and her grandson, Claude, eventually settled in the United States. The family’s post-war search for the painting was unsuccessful. In the 1990s, the painting was purchased by the Foundation, an entity created and controlled by the Kingdom of Spain.Claude sued the Foundation, invoking the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1602, to establish jurisdiction. FSIA provides foreign states and their instrumentalities with immunity from suit unless the claim falls within a specified exception. The court held that the Nazi confiscation of the painting brought Claude’s suit within the FSIA exception for expropriated property. To determine what property law governed the dispute, the court had to apply a choice-of-law rule. The plaintiffs urged the use of California’s choice-of-law rule; the Foundation advocated federal common law. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the choice of the federal option, which commanded the use of the law of Spain, under which the Foundation was the rightful owner.The Supreme Court vacated. In an FSIA suit raising non-federal claims against a foreign state or instrumentality, a court should determine the substantive law by using the same choice-of-law rule applicable in a similar suit against a private party. When a foreign state is not immune from suit under FSIA, it is subject to the same rules of liability as a private party. Only the same choice-of-law rule can guarantee the use of the same substantive law and guarantee the same liability. Judicial creation of federal common law to displace state-created rules must be “necessary to protect uniquely federal interests.” Even the federal government disclaims any necessity for a federal choice-of-law rule in FSIA suits raising non-federal claims. View "Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Aenergy, S.A., and Combined Cycle Power Plant Soyo, S.A. (together, “AE”), sued various Angolan Government entities (together, “Angola”), plus General Electric Co. and related entities (together, “GE”). AE alleges that Angola wrongfully cancelled AE’s Angolan power plant contracts and seized its related property in violation of state and international law and that GE interfered with its contracts and prospective business relations.The court found that the standard principles of forum non conveniens applies to AE’s lawsuit brought pursuant to exceptions to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1605. The court reasoned that forum non conveniens does not require a case-by-case consideration of comity, and therefore is consistent with the FSIA’s purpose in establishing a “comprehensive set of legal standards.”The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing AE’s complaint on forum non conveniens grounds. AE argues that the district court erred in applying the three-step forum non conveniens analysis. The court held that the district court reasonably found that AE’s forum choice was entitled to minimal deference; that Angola is an adequate alternative forum; and that the public and private Gilbert factors favor Angola. Thus the court affirmed the district court’s orders. View "Aenergy, S.A. v. Republic of Angola" on Justia Law

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In 2008-2013, IMSS, the agency of the Mexican government tasked with purchasing medical products for Mexican citizens, purchased medical products from Zimmer, a medical device company, headquartered in Indiana and incorporated in Delaware. Zimmer distributes its products in Mexico through an indirectly wholly-owned subsidiary. IMSS claims Zimmer orchestrated an international bribery scheme from its Indiana headquarters to facilitate the sale of unregistered medical products and paid around $1 million in bribes to its “Mexican agents” who passed bribes to Mexican government officials.IMSS sued in the Northern District of Indiana, alleging two causes of action under Mexican law (breach of contract and violating the Law of Acquisitions, Leases and Services of the Public Sector) and fraud. for which the relief is the same under U.S. or Mexican law. The district court disagreed with IMSS’s interpretation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and dismissed based on forum non conveniens. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Two of IMSS’s claims arise under Mexican law and the remedy for the third is identical in either country. There is no risk IMSS will be deprived of a remedy by litigating in Mexican courts. The court noted the hardship of transporting witnesses from Mexico to the U.S. and that UNCAC is expressly non-self-executing. View "Instituto Mexicano del Seguro v. Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law