Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Argentine Republic v. Amerada Hess Shipping Corp. case brief

Argentine Republic v. Amerada Hess Shipping Corp. case brief summary
488 U.S. 428 (1989)

Procedural History:
Review of reversal of dismissal of action seeking damages for property destruction.

Overview:

-A pair of Liberian corporations (P) sought to sue the Argentine Republic (D) in  U.S. courts under the Alien Tort Statute.
-United Carriers, Inc. (P), a Liberian corporation, chartered a vessel called the Hercules to Amerada Hess Shipping Corporation (P), another Liberian corporation.
-The ship was to be used to transport fuel. While off the South American coast during the 1983 Falkland Islands War, it was irreparably damaged and had to be scuttled. United (P) and Amerada (P) sued Argentina (D) in U.S. district court.
-The court dismissed, holding jurisdiction to be absent.
-The Second Circuit reversed, holding that jurisdiction existed under the Alien Tort Statute of 1789. The U.S. Supreme Court granted review.

Issue:

-Does the Alien Tort Statute confer jurisdiction over foreign states?

Rule:

-The alien tort statute does not confer jurisdiction over foreign states.

Analysis:

-The main focus of the FSIA appears to be commercial. There are a variety of commercial activities that occur outside the United States that can lead to a foreign state's being sued in a U.S. court The same is not true in the tort arena.

Outcome:

-The Alien Tort Statute does not confer jurisdiction over foreign states.
-The statute confers jurisdiction in district courts over suits brought by aliens in tort for violations of international law or U.S. treaties.
-The law, as an initial matter, is silent as to whether it applies to suits against foreign states. More importantly, in 1976, Congress enacted the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which dealt in a comprehensive manner with the issue of jurisdiction over foreign states.
-The law provides that, except as provided in the Act, foreign states shall be immune from U.S. courts' jurisdiction. While the FSIA does not explicitly repeal the Alien Tort Statute to the extent that it may confer jurisdiction over a foreign state, it is dear that this was an intent behind the FSIA. This being so, the FSIA can be the only source of jurisdiction over a foreign state. Reversed.

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