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U.S. Courts Do Not Have Jurisdiction When Contract and Arbitration Are International
Description Appeals court held that when a U.S. firm made a contract with a foreign nation in that nation, and the nation agreed to international arbitration to resolve disputes, U.S. courts did not have personal jurisdiction over the foreign nation to enforce the international arbitration award.
Topic International Law
Key Words Arbitration; Jurisdiction; Minimum Contacts
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Creighton, a Cayman Islands corporation with offices in Tennessee, contracted with the government of Qatar to build a hospital in Doha, the capital of Qatar. After a dispute over Creighton's performance, it won an arbitral award against Qatar from the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris. Creighton sought to enforce the award in U.S. federal court. Qatar claimed that the court lacks jurisdiction over the action. The issue ended up before the appeals court.
Decision The district court has authority to enforce the arbitral award entered by the French tribunal. A foreign state is immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts unless the suit comes within an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Qatar did not waive its sovereign immunity by agreeing to arbitration in France, so U.S. courts have subject matter jurisdiction under the New York convention to enforce arbitral awards. However, Qatar did not agree to submit to personal jurisdiction of U.S. courts and it lacked minimum contacts with the U.S. with respect to the construction contract. The contract was made in Qatar, so U.S. courts lack personal jurisdiction.
Citation Creighton Limited v. Government of the State of Qatar, 181 F.3d 118 (D.C. Cir., 1999)

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