Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law
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The case involves Kholkar Vishveshwar Ganpat, an Indian citizen, who contracted malaria while working as a crew member on a Liberian-flagged ship managed by Eastern Pacific Shipping Pte., Limited (EPS), a Singaporean company. Ganpat alleges that EPS failed to adequately provision the ship with antimalarial medication for its voyage to Gabon, a high-risk malaria area in Africa. Ganpat's illness resulted in gangrene, amputation of several toes, and a 76-day hospitalization. He filed a lawsuit against EPS in the United States, seeking relief under the Jones Act and the general maritime law of the United States. He also asserted a contractual claim for disability benefits.The district court initially deferred making a choice-of-law ruling. However, after discovery, the court ruled that the law of the United States (the Jones Act and general maritime law) governs Ganpat’s tort claims and claim for breach of the collective bargaining agreement. EPS appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court disagreed with the district court's assessment of the Lauritzen-Rhoditis factors, which are used to determine whether maritime claims are governed by the law of the United States or the conflicting law of a foreign nation. The appellate court found that none of the factors that the Supreme Court has deemed significant to the choice-of-law determination in traditional maritime shipping cases involve the United States. The court concluded that Ganpat’s maritime tort and contract claims should be adjudicated under the substantive law of Liberia, the flag state of the ship on which Ganpat was working when he contracted malaria. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Ganpat v. Eastern Pacific Shipping" on Justia Law

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The case involves Indemnity Insurance Company of North America ("Indemnity") and Unitrans International Corporation ("Unitrans"). Indemnity, as the insurer of Amgen, a pharmaceutical company, paid for the loss of a pallet of pharmaceutical drugs that was damaged while being unloaded from a truck at an airport. The pallet was being transported from Amgen's facility in Dublin, Ireland to Philadelphia, and Unitrans, a logistics company, had been engaged to arrange the transportation. Indemnity, as Amgen's subrogee, sued Unitrans for breach of contract, negligence, and breach of bailment.The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted Unitrans's motion for summary judgment, ruling that Unitrans qualified as a contracting carrier under the Montreal Convention, and therefore, Indemnity's action was time-barred by the Convention's statute of limitations.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed that contracting carriers are subject to the Montreal Convention, but found that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Unitrans was a contracting carrier. The court vacated the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court held that a contracting carrier, as defined by Article 39 of the Montreal Convention, is a person that, as a principal, makes a contract of carriage governed by the Montreal Convention with a consignor, and an actual carrier performs the whole or part of the carriage by virtue of authority from the contracting carrier. The court found that there was enough evidence cutting both ways to create a genuine question as to whether Unitrans qualifies as a contracting carrier. View "Indemnity Inssurance Co. of North America v. Unitrans International Corp." on Justia Law

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The case at hand involves United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel), an Australian producer and exporter of hot-rolled steel, BlueScope Steel (AIS) Pty Ltd., and its affiliated U.S. importer, BlueScope Steel Americas, Inc. U.S. Steel alleged that the Australian company had reimbursed its U.S. affiliate for antidumping duties, a claim which BlueScope denied. The core dispute arose from differing interpretations of a supply agreement between the companies, which determined the pricing of the steel products.Prior to reaching the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the case was reviewed by the United States Court of International Trade. This lower court sustained the Department of Commerce's determination that BlueScope had not reimbursed its U.S. importer for antidumping duties. The court found that the agency's determination was supported by substantial evidence and was otherwise in accordance with the law.Upon reaching the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the court reviewed the decisions of the Court of International Trade de novo, applying the same standard of review used by the trial court in reviewing the administrative record before the agency. The appeals court upheld the decision made by the lower court, finding that the agency's determination was supported by substantial evidence and was in accordance with the law. The court also held that the agency did not err in its interpretation of the antidumping duty regulation, and therefore did not depart from an established practice. As a result, the appeals court affirmed the lower court's decision. View "United States Steel Corporation v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a U.S. citizen and Illinois resident of Indian origin, opened a non-resident account with the State Bank of India through one of its India-based branches. When the State Bank of India retroactively changed the terms of the account, Plaintiff sued for breach of contract. The district court dismissed his complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act applied to Bhattacharya’s claim and immunized the Bank from suit.   The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court was correct to conclude that these activities are insufficient to establish a direct effect in the United States. Plaintiff’s non-resident account is maintained in India, and the relevant transactions were with the Bank’s India-based branches. The court explained that Plaintiff did not allege that his suit related to any account held with a U.S.-based branch of the Bank or was otherwise related to any actions the Bank had taken here. Nor did he point to any agreement with the State Bank of India that established the United States as the site of performance. Accordingly, the court held that Plaintiff’s contract agreement established his account with the Indian branches of the Bank. View "Arun Bhattacharya v. State Bank of India" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a citizen of India, worked as a crew member on the Stargate, a merchant ship managed by the Singapore-based shipping company Eastern Pacific. Plaintiff brought suit against Eastern Pacific in the Eastern District of Louisiana, alleging tort claims under the Jones Act and general maritime law, as well as contract claims arising from a collective bargaining agreement. In March 2020—after Plaintiff brought his complaint and Eastern Pacific consented to federal court jurisdiction, but before Plaintiff perfected service—Eastern Pacific sued Plaintiff in Goa, India. In the Indian suit, Eastern Pacific sought an anti-suit injunction to prevent Plaintiff from litigating in American court. Plaintiff sought an anti-suit injunction to prohibit Eastern Pacific from prosecuting its Indian suit against him. Finding the Indian litigation vexatious and oppressive and determining that it need not show comity to the Indian court that had attempted to enjoin the American suit, the district court granted the injunction in favor of Plaintiff. Eastern Pacific appealed the district court’s grant of the anti-suit injunction.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that there is no basis to conclude that the district court abused its discretion in granting the anti-suit injunction. The court reasoned that the district court was well within its discretion to conclude that the vexatiousness of the Indian litigation outweighed any comity concerns. View "Ganpat v. Eastern Pacific Shipping" on Justia Law

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Pakistan International Airlines (“PIA”) failed to transport the body of N.B. to Pakistan for burial due to a miscommunication by employees of Swissport USA, PIA’s cargo loading agent. N.B.’s family members sued PIA and Swissport in New York state court under state law; PIA removed the action to the district court. Following cross-motions for summary judgment and an evidentiary hearing, the district court held that Plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by the Montreal Convention and dismissed the suit. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the Montreal Convention, which preempts state-law claims arising from delayed cargo, does not apply because human remains are not “cargo” for purposes of the Montreal Convention and because their particular claims are not for “delay.”   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that human remains are cargo for purposes of the Montreal Convention; and on the facts found by the district court, the claims arise from delay. The claims are therefore preempted by the Montreal Convention. The court further wrote that it was Plaintiffs who cut off PIA’s ability to perform under the terms of the waybill. That decision was understandable given the need to bury N.B. quickly, and it cannot be doubted that Plaintiffs found themselves in a hard situation. But their only recourse against PIA and Swissport was a claim under the Montreal Convention, a claim which they have consistently declined to assert. View "Badar v. Swissport USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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In the 1990s, Aldossari’s company, Trans Gulf, entered into an agreement in Saudi Arabia with three other businesses to establish and operate an oil refinery in Saint Lucia, a Caribbean island nation. Crude oil was to be sourced from the Saudi government or its national oil company, Saudi Aramco. The project went forward, but, Aldossari alleged, the owners of the three contract counterparties – one of whom became the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia –refused to pay Trans Gulf its share of the proceeds. Two decades later, the soon-to-be Crown Prince promised to pay Aldossari but never did. Aldossari, transferred his rights to his minor son, a U.S. citizen.The federal district court dismissed Aldossari’s subsequent tort and contract claims. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that dismissal of the claims against a deceased defendant was proper because Aldossari failed to allege any basis for exercising subject-matter jurisdiction over those claims. As for the surviving defendants, the lack of any meaningful ties between those defendants and the United States in Aldossari’s claims defeats his effort to sue them in the U.S. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act precludes subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims against Saudi Arabia and Saudi Aramco. The case was remanded with directions to dismiss without prejudice since none of the dispositive rulings reach the merits. View "Aldossari v. Ripp" 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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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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Sacks is a law firm with a 20-year history of working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2011, IMF hired Sacks to negotiate disputed claims of various contractors that worked on the renovation of its headquarters. The parties’ contract asserts IMF’s immunity from suit and provides that any disputes not settled by mutual agreement shall be resolved by arbitration. In a subsequent fee dispute between Sacks and IMF, Sacks filed a demand for arbitration with the AAA. The arbitration panel awarded Sacks $39,918.82 plus interest but denied Sacks’ claim of underpayment in connection with earlier work.Sacks sued the Fund, claiming that the award should be vacated pursuant to the D.C. Code as “the result of misconduct by the arbitrators.” IMF removed the case to federal court and moved to dismiss it on immunity grounds pursuant to its Articles of Agreement, given effect in the U.S. by the Bretton Woods Act, 22 U.S.C. 286h. Sacks asserted the contract waived immunity by expressly providing for arbitration pursuant to the AAA Rules, which contemplate courts’ entry of judgment on arbitral awards. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The AAA Rules and D.C. law contemplate judicial involvement in the enforcement of arbitral awards, so arguably the contract also does so but an international organization's waiver of the immunity must be explicit. The parties' contract expressly retains the IMF’s immunity, reiterating it even within the arbitration clause. View "Leonard A. Sacks & Associates P.C. v. International Monetary Fund" on Justia Law