South-Western Legal Studies in Business
SOUTH-WESTERN LEGAL STUDIES IN BUSINESS CASE UPDATES—INTERNATIONAL LAW
SW Legal's Case Updates is a SW Legal Studies service to provide briefs of the latest state and federal court cases. Review the summaries and, for cases of interest, select the case brief. If you cannot find a case of interest, return to Topic Index .
Title
Summary
U.S. Is Forum Non Conveniens for Matter Dominated by Mexican Legal Interests
Briefed Case

Appeals court affirmed dismissal of a suit brought against a U.S. company indirectly involved in the death of a Mexican citizen in Mexico. The Mexican legal system provided an adequate forum to resolve the legal issues involved, so there would be no litigation in the U.S. under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.
(Updated March 2010)

Holocaust Era Claims Against Insurance Company Must Go To International Commission
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that when the President agreed to allow an international commission to handle claims made against companies that failed to make good on insurance policies that should have covered losses related to the Holocaust, the commission became the exclusive remedy for claims against the companies.
(Updated March 2010)

Use of Pesticide on Agricultural Plantation in Africa Not a Violation of Alien Tort Statute
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that there was no basis for suit brought in U.S. court against various chemical companies and agricultural companies that grew fruit in Africa. Plaintiffs contended that defendants intended to commit genocide by use of the pesticide. There was no evidence of that nor were the requirements of the Alien Tort Statute met.
(Updated February 2009)

U.S. Courts Must Defer to Sovereign Nationís Interests
Briefed Case

Supreme Court reversed lower court holdings in favor of parties that sought to seize assets in the U.S. that belonged to the former head of the Philippines. The Court held that since the Republic of the Philippines was investigating what should happen to such assets, U.S. courts must defer to such sovereign interests.
(Updated October 2008)

Transformed Food Product Not Covered by Antidumping Order
Briefed Case

Appeals court upheld a determination by the Department of Commerce that crawfish that was blended into a pre-cooked stew was not subject to an antidumping duty order that applied to the crawfish itself.
(Updated December 2007)

Foreign Sovereigns Must Respond to State Property Tax Suits in State Court
Briefed Case

Supreme Court held that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally allows foreign nations to force litigation into federal court, does not apply to a tax dispute over local taxes owed on real property held by a foreign government. That matter goes to state court for consideration.
(Updated August 2007)

Health Problems from International Flights Do Not Subject Airlines to Liability
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a passenger could not sue an airline for a health problem he developed from sitting during a long international flight. Such problems are not accidents caused by the airlines that could subject them to liability under the Warsaw Convention that defines when liability occurs.
(Updated August 2006)

U.S. Courts May Not Intervene in Arbitration Subject to Law of another Country
Briefed Case

U.S. court refused to hear a suit brought by a U.S. company that won an arbitration award in a contract dispute with a company from another country. Since the courts of that country vacated the award, that resolves the matter and there is no appeal to U.S. courts.
(Updated April 2006)

Courts Lack Jurisdiction Over U.S. Citizen Dispute Over Foreign Retirement Benefits
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction to hear a case in which a U.S. citizen, who paid taxes to the Saudi social security for years while working there, contended he should receive a larger refund. There was no expropriation of property, so no basis for jurisdiction.
(Updated February 2006)

Superfund Does Not Apply Outside of the U.S. without Congressional Approval
Briefed Case

Appeals court rejected a claim that the U.S. must do a CERCLA evaluation and clean up of U.S. military bases in the Philippines that were abandoned and returned to the Philippines. The history of CERCLA makes clear that Congress did not intend for it to have extra-territorial application.
(Updated November 2005)

Airline Not Liable for Blood Clot Suffered by International Air Passenger
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a stroke suffered by an international airline passenger that was likely worsened by hours of sitting and the cabin pressure did not qualify as an accident under the international treaty that governs airline liability for accidents.
(Updated December 2004)

Current Governments Bound by Actions of Predecessor Government Agencies
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that under international law, governments are generally bound by contracts, including those requiring binding arbitration of disputes that were lawfully signed by agencies of the governments that controlled the country prior to the current government.
(Updated April 2004)

Painting Vehicles in Mexico Is Incidental to Assembly, Not Decorative, for Tariff Determination
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the Customs Service regulation concerning vehicle painting was inconsistent with the Tariff Schedule adopted by Congress. Under the schedule, decorative painting is subject to duty payment, but painting incidental to assembly is not. Painting during assembly is incidental, not decorative, so not subject to duty.
(Updated April 2004)

Federal Courts Have No Jurisdiction over Foreign Heads of State
Briefed Case

Former and current citizens of China may not sue the head of the government of China in U.S. court for alleged human rights abuses. Foreign Heads of State are immune from court jurisdiction unless the political branches of government hold otherwise.
(Updated November 2003)

Executive Convicted of Bribery May Sue Attorney for Improper Advice
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a company executive, who was convicted of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by violating a foreign official, could maintain a malpractice action against an attorney who allegedly advised the executive that a certain payment would not violate the Act when in fact it did.
(Updated June 2003)

Dispute Between Russian and Ukrainian Companies Not the Business of U.S. Courts
Briefed Case

Appeals court affirmed that a dispute between a Russian company and a Ukrainian company could not be litigated in U.S. courts. The forum was improper given that the matter could be litigated, should arbitration be inadequate or need to be enforced, in the home courts of the two companies. There is no logical relationship of the U.S. to the matter.
(Updated April 2003)

Mexican Citizens Injured in Mexico by U.S. Products Have Adequate Forum in Mexican Courts
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a suit against American companies for products liability was properly dismissed when a Mexican citizen sued the companies in the U.S. Since the product was sold in Mexico, and the companies were subject to Mexican law, the proper forum for litigation was Mexico.
(Updated March 2003)
Forum Rules of International Treaty, Not National Law Will Govern Forum for Litigation Based on Treaty
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that under the Warsaw Convention, passengers injured in an international flight had the right to choose a number of forums to litigate their claims against the airline. The airline could not invoke the forum non conveniens rule that may apply had the suit been under U.S. law.
(Updated February 2003)
Warsaw Convention Governs Estimation of Damages to Freight Shipment
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that under the Warsaw Convention, in an international shipment of goods not specifically covered by another insurance arrangement, the carrier was liable for damages based on the weight of the entire shipment, not just the weight of the portion of the goods being shipped that were actually damaged.
(Updated February 2003)
American Company Could Be Liable Under Alien Tort Claims Act for Forced Labor
Briefed Case
A U.S. oil company participated in the construction of a project in Burma. The project was done in partnership with the military government. Villagers claim to have been subjected to forced labor, rape and murder. Appeals court held that sufficient evidence had been presented that would allow a suit to proceed.
(Updated November 2002)
Aiding and Abetting Terrorist Groups Is Basis for Civil Liability for Injuries Inflicted
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a suit for civil liability against two foundations in the U.S. that raised money to support a terrorist organization in Palestine that sponsors murders of U.S. citizens and other civilians in Israel, may proceed. If it is shown at trial that the foundations knew of the terrorist activities, which killed a U.S. citizen, then there may be liability.
(Updated September 2002)
French Court Order to Quash Free Speech Not Enforceable in United States
Briefed Case
A federal district court held that the order of a French court that Yahoo! must block access of all French citizens to its web sites, so they could not see Nazi materials, was not enforceable in the U.S. and so would not be recognized because it violates the First Amendment rights of Yahoo!
(Updated April 2002)
Theft of Airline Passenger Baggage Limited by Convention
Briefed Case
Appeals court confirmed that an airline passenger whose bag was stolen at security was limited to $400 recovery because the domestic flight that she was taking was going to connect her to a flight that was an international flight subject to the Warsaw Convention that controls airline liability.
(Updated March 1, 2002)
Import Broker Does Not Have Duty to Know Every Import Classification
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an import broker, who handles getting goods through Customs and helps with tariff classification, has a duty of reasonable care to its clients. However, since thousands of goods are reclassified each year, for a broker not to know all reclassifications does not mean there is necessarily a breach of duty to a client who pays a higher tariff than may be necessary.
(Updated December 1, 2001)
U.S. Court Has In Rem Jurisdiction to Order Seizure of Illegal Funds in Spanish Bank
Briefed Case
Court held that under federal law, and because of a treaty of mutual legal assistance between Spain and the U.S., the court had in rem jurisdiction to order the seizure by the U.S. government of funds deposited in a Spanish bank by a convicted drug dealer in the U.S.
(Updated October 1, 2001)
Nations May Not Sue Tobacco Industry for Health Care Consequences of Smoking
Briefed Case
Appeals court dismissed a suit brought by several nations, on the theory of parens patriae, against the tobacco industry to recover public health care costs incurred by those nations. Such suits are not allowed unless permitted by the Supreme Court or by federal law. Individuals in those nations may pursue their own actions.
(Updated October 1, 2001)
Contract Requiring Arbitration Applies to Dispute with Subcontractor Too
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that when international parties to a contract calling for arbitration of all disputes later hire a subcontractor to help perform the contract, problems caused by the subcontractor are subject to arbitration and may not go to litigation.
(Updated September 1, 2001)
Foreign Governments Liable for Damages to Persons Caused by Support for Terrorists
Briefed Case
Federal district court awarded over $50 million in compensatory damages and $300 million punitive damages to an American kidnaped in Lebanon, who was held and tortured for almost seven years by Hizbollah, a terrorist organization supported by the government of Iran. Sovereign immunity does not apply in such instance.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Liability of Foreign Government at Home May Not Lead to Loss of Foreign Immunity in U.S.
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a foreign government, while possibly subject to liability at home for losses suffered by a company there, was protected by sovereign immunity from suit in the U.S. when there was an effort to enforce a judgment from that country in the courts of the U.S. Since the matter was not commercial, but based on government policy, immunity was protected.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
Foreign Arbitration Clause in Insurance Policy Is Enforceable
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an English insurance company, which issued a policy on a boat in Massachusetts, could enforce the clause in the policy that required all policy disputes to be resolved by arbitration in England. Under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, this policy provision stands.
(Updated April 1, 2001)
Mexico Has No Standing to Sue to Protect Civil Rights of Its Citizens Working in the U.S.
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed the dismissal of the government of Mexico from a suit brought against a farm in Maine that employed Mexican citizens and U.S. citizens of Mexican descent. Mexico joined the workers to assert that the employer had violated their civil rights. While the workers may sue, Mexico may not, as the parens patriae doctrine does not apply.
(Updated November 1, 2000)
Sovereign Immunity Applies to U.S. Firm Forced to Discriminate in Employment
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld dismissal of suit brought by an employee who claimed she suffered from sex discrimination. She was denied a promotion recommended by her superiors because the foreign government that hired her employer stated that a woman could not be in the position in question. The employer derived sovereign immunity from its employer.
(Updated November 1, 2000)
Product Makers Owned by Foreign Government May Move Suits to Federal Court
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that a gun making company, owned by the Chinese government, has the right, under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, to move any suit against it from state court to federal court for a non-jury trial.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Government Agencies Are Not "Persons" for Foreign Legal Proceedings Documentary Requests
Briefed Case
Federal court squashed a subpoena demanding that the CIA produce documents that related to the French government investigation of the car crash that killed Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed. Under federal law, only "persons" must respond to such requests for documents, which does not include government agencies.
(Updated July 1, 2000)
Foreign Words in Trademarks Given Common English Meaning in Usage
Briefed Case
The seller of "Chupa Chups" sued the seller of "Chupa Gerts" for trademark infringement. The appeals court held that there was no infringement because the key term, chupa, when translated, is a generic Spanish word meaning lollipop or sucker that is due no protection.
(Updated July 1, 2000)
Embargo Against Cuba Precludes Judgment on Dispute Over Trademark
Briefed Case
A Cuban company claimed ownership of a trademark that is also claimed by an American firm. The American firm asserts that the Cuban government confiscated the trademark without compensation. Under the federal law controlling the embargo against Cuba, in such a dispute the Cuban firm has no legal standing to have the matter litigated.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Courts Will Defer to Customs Service Rules When Tariff Law Unclear
Briefed Case
Supreme Court held that the courts will grant deference to the Customs Service when it writes regulations regarding tariffs that clarify parts of the tariff statutes that are unclear as to particular goods or services. So long as Customs is reasonable in its interpretation, its rules should stand.
(Updated February 1, 2000)
U.S. Courts Do Not Have Jurisdiction When Contract and Arbitration Are International
Briefed Case
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.
(Updated February 1, 2000)
Various Claims Against Mining Company Fail for Lack of Specificity
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld dismissal of a suit by an Indonesian citizen against an American company operating a mine in Indonesia. The claims of genocide, human rights violations, and environmental abuses were not backed by any evidence, only assertions, so could not stand.
(Updated February 1, 2000)
U.S. Courts Will Defer to Brazilian Bankruptcy Proceedings
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed the decision of district court to dismiss a suit brought by creditor of a Brazilian bank that defaulted on payment of notes. At the time payment was due, the bank was under liquidation proceedings under Brazilian law. Comity requires U.S. courts to respect such proceedings.
(Updated January 1, 2000)
U.S. Courts Will Not Review Arbitration Awards Set Aside by Courts of Other Nations
Briefed Case
An appeals court upheld the verdict of a district court to dismiss a request by a party that U.S. courts enforce arbitration awards that were set aside by the Nigerian High Court. Since the parties to the contracts specified that Nigerian law would govern, the determination of that nation's court to set aside the awards is to be respected and the matter will not be reviewed.
(Updated January 1, 1999)
Congress May Protect Beastie Boys from Bootleggers
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a statute Congress passed based on an international treaty that calls for international protection of intellectual property, including protection for recording artists against bootleg recordings made at live performances.
(Updated September 1, 1999)
Bolivian Suit Moved To Washington from Rural Texas County Court
Briefed Case
Federal court in Texas moved a suit by Bolivia against tobacco companies to federal court in Washington after it had been moved to federal court from the rural Texas state court where the case wea filed. Multiple similar actions might be consolidated in Washington for a complex trial.
(Updated June 1, 1999)
De Minimis Rule Applies to Imports Subject to NAFTA
Briefed Case
Appeals court reversed a decision to classify aluminum ingots that were shipped to the U.S. from Canada as not of Canadian origin. The ingots contained less than one-percent materials from countries other than Canada. Such a small fraction is de minimis; the country of origin is Canada; the goods qualify for lower tariffs under NAFTA.
(Updated May 1, 1999)
Foreign Creditors That Participate in Bankruptcy Proceedings Subject to Court's Extraterritorial Control
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a foreign bank that participated in a Chapter 7 proceeding involving a U.S. debtor were properly enjoined by the bankruptcy court, along with all other debtors, from bringing any other action in a foreign court against the debtor.
(Updated May 1, 1999)
Russian Copyright Law Governs Disposition of Infringement Suit Tried in U.S. Court
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that under international conventions, Russian copyright law would govern the protection due to those works created in Russia. The Russian copyright owner could sue to enforce the law against an infringer in U.S. courts.
(Updated May 1, 1999)
Warsaw Convention Sets Standards for Liability of International Air Carriers
Briefed Case
Supreme Court held that tort suit by a passenger against international air carrier must meet the liability standards established by the Warsaw Convention, not the standards of New York law where the alleged tort occurred.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Ban on Exports to Iran Understood by Common Sense
Briefed Case
Appeals court reversed a decision to dismiss charges against a party who shipped equipment to Iran in violation of an Executive Order against exports to Iran. The claim that the Order did not clearly explain what an export is, so the Order is not enforceable, does not square with the long understood meaning of the term.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Massachusetts "Burma Law" Held Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Massachusetts restricted purchases from firms doing business with Myanmar to try to force that country to improve its human rights policies. Court held the law to be an unconstitutional infringement of the foreign commerce clause, as regulation of foreign trade is exclusively a federal matter.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Federal Tax to Support Harbor Maintenance Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Federal Harbor Maintenance Tax, imposed as a percentage of the value of goods exported, is in violation of the Export Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits taxes on exports. Congress may charge harbor use fees that are fairly related to the value of services received, which an ad valorem tax does not.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Burden on Canadian to Appear in Kentucky Court Is Small
Briefed Case
Canadian firm failed to pay for $95,000 worth of goods delivered by a Kentucky company under an agreement that specified Kentucky law. Appeals court held that the burden on the foreign firm was minimal to defend itself given the close distance and the strong interest of the forum state and the plaintiff.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Failure to Arbitrate Does Not Allow Litigation Instead
Briefed Case
A failure of a party to arbitrate denies right to litigate international commercial contract claim. Otherwise, parties could simply ignore arbitration so as to force a matter directly into court.
(Updated 4-6-98)
ADEA Applied to Foreign Government Agency Operating in the U.S.
Briefed Case
Federal district court ruled that an age discrimination suit could proceed against the British Tourist Authority, which has an office in New York to promote tourism in Britain. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not apply because, although a government agency, it is engaged in commercial activity.
(Updated 1-16-98)
Asset Seizure Rules Were Not Illegally Retroactive
Briefed Case
Company lost payment for goods sold to Iraq when Iraqi letter of credit was frozen during Gulf War. New regulations denied the company the right to the payment. Court held the retroactive nature of the rules not illegal.
(Updated 12-29-97)
Challenge to NAFTA Requires Specific Injury, Not General Assertions of Injury
Briefed Case
Challenge by industrial coalition to NAFTA protection against dumping of goods by Canada and Mexico rejected. Coalition did not have standing to challenge the administrative procedure because no direct injury was alleged; the complaint generally attacked NAFTA as damaging.
(Updated 12-29-97)

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