Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in International Law
Fischer v. Magyar Allamvasutak Zrt.
In 2010, Hungarian survivors of the Holocaust filed a purported class action in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that in 1944 the Hungarian national railway transported Fischer and up to 500,000 other Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the plaintiffs had neither exhausted remedies that may be available in Hungary nor established that the national railway is engaged in commercial activity in the U.S., as necessary to support the exercise of subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) expropriation exception. In 2016, Kellner, a member of the putative class, filed her own complaint against the Hungarian national railway in Budapest’s Capital Regional Court, which dismissed the case. In 2017, the district court received a “Motion to Reinstate” based on “class member” Kellner’s efforts to exhaust remedies in Hungary. The district court rejected the motion: [A]lthough there was a proposed class in this case and Kellner may have been a putative class member, … No class was certified …. Kellner ... is not a named party … and lacks any standing.” The Seventh Circuit held that it lacked authority to consider an appeal from a party not subject to the order sought to be challenged. View "Fischer v. Magyar Allamvasutak Zrt." on Justia Law
Balintulo v. Daimler AG
Plaintiffs filed putative class-action suits over ten years ago under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. 1350, on behalf of those harmed by the South African legal regime known as "apartheid." Plaintiffs asserted that defendants aided and abetted violations of customary international law committed by the South African government by selling cars and computers to the South African government. Defendants petitioned for mandamus relief. The court concluded that, in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., issuance of the writ was unnecessary in this case because defendants have an adequate means of relief through a motion for judgment on the pleadings; plaintiffs' arguments that Kiobel did not apply where defendants were American citizens, or where the case involved American interests, were without merit; and, because the Kiobel decision plainly foreclosed plaintiffs' claims as a matter of law, the court need not consider whether defendants have asserted a valid basis for "collateral order" jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for mandamus relief and vacated the stay placed by the court on proceedings in the district court. View "Balintulo v. Daimler AG" on Justia Law
Abelsz v. Magyar Nemzeti Bank
Holocaust survivors and heirs of other Holocaust victims sued, alleging that the Hungarian National Bank and Hungarian National Railway participated in expropriating property from Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. Railway plaintiffs claimed subject matter jurisdiction under the expropriation exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3), and assert: takings in violation of international law, aiding and abetting genocide, complicity in genocide, violations of customary international law, unlawful conversion, unjust enrichment, fraudulent misrepresentation, and accounting. Bank plaintiffs claimed subject matter jurisdiction under the FSIA expropriation and waiver exceptions, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(1) and assert: genocide, aiding and abetting genocide, bailment, conversion, constructive trust, and accounting. They sought certifications as class actions, seeking to have the railway held responsible for approximately $1.25 billion, and the bank held jointly and severally responsible with private banks for approximately $75 billion. The district court declined to dismiss. The Seventh Circuit held that it had appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine and remanded with instructions that plaintiffs either exhaust available Hungarian remedies identified by defendants or present a legally compelling reason for failure to do so. The court should allow jurisdictional discovery with respect to whether the railway is engaged in “commercial activity” in the U.S. View "Abelsz v. Magyar Nemzeti Bank" on Justia Law
Abelesz v. OTP Bank
Holocaust survivors and heirs of other Holocaust victims sued, alleging that defendant banks participated in expropriating property from Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. Invoking subject-matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1330(a), the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C.1350, and federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, they alleged: genocide, aiding and abetting genocide, bailment, conversion, constructive trust, and accounting. Plaintiffs sought certification as a class action and asked that each bank be held jointly and severally responsible for damages of approximately $75 billion. This case and a parallel case against the Hungarian national railway have produced nine appeals and mandamus petitions. The district court declined to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Seventh Circuit, noting that such a decision would ordinarily not be reviewable, stated that: “This is the rare case, however, in which it is appropriate for this court to exercise its discretion to issue a writ of mandamus to confine the district court to the exercise of its lawful jurisdiction” The court cited the extraordinary scale of the litigation, the inherent involvement with U.S. foreign policy, and the “crystal clarity” of the lack of foundation for exercising general personal jurisdiction over the banks. View "Abelesz v. OTP Bank" on Justia Law
M.D., et al. v. Rick Perry, et al.
Plaintiffs, nine children in the custody of PMC, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against three Texas officials, in their official capacities, seeking to represent a class of all children who were now, and all those who will be, in the State's long-term foster care. The gravaman of plaintiffs' complaint is that various system-wide problems in Texas's administration of its PMC subjected all of the children in PMC to a variety of harms. Applying the standards announced in the Supreme Court's recent opinion, Wal-mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, the court held that the district court failed to conduct the "rigorous" analysis required by Rule 23 in deciding to certify the proposed class. The court also held that the district court abused its discretion by certifying a class that lacked cohesiveness under Rule 23(b)(2). Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's class certification order and remanded for further proceedings. View "M.D., et al. v. Rick Perry, et al." on Justia Law
Gonzalez-Servin v. Ford Motor Co.
The Seventh Circuit consolidated two cases involving transfer to courts in another country. One is an appeal from an order to transfer cases involving vehicular accidents allegedly caused by tires installed on vehicles in Latin America, from the Southern District of Indiana to the courts of Mexico. Its i a suit by Mexican citizens arising from the death of another Mexican citizen in an accident in Mexico. The second involves transfer, to Israel, of suits against manufacturers of blood products used by hemophiliacs, which turned out to be contaminated by HIV; it was brought by Israeli citizens infected by the products in Israel. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the transfers. Noting the existence of apparently dispositive precedent, the court referred to "ostrich-like tactic of pretending that potentially dispositive authority against a litigant's contention does not exist." View "Gonzalez-Servin v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law
De Leon v. Marcos, et al
Plaintiff Ferdinand De Leon appealed a district court’s judgment entered in favor of Defendant Denman Investment Corporation, Inc. Plaintiff represents a class of over 9500 people who brought human rights claims against the former president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos. In 1995, the class obtained a $2 billion judgment in the federal district court of Hawai'i. Several years later, the class registered the judgment in the federal district court in Illinois in an attempt to enforce it. The judgment was revived in 2008 and remains in effect until 2017 under Illinois law. Plaintiff then registered the Illinois revival in federal district court in Colorado. While ancillary lawsuits proceeded, Plaintiff filed a putative class action in 2009, seeking to enforce the Illinois judgment in Colorado against property that Defendant owned nominally for the benefit of the Marcos estate. Defendant moved to dismiss the Colorado suit, contending that, among other things, the Illinois judgement was unenforceable in Colorado. The Colorado court denied Defendant's motion, denied a motion to certify the class, and dismissed the sole claim against the Marcoses. But while that motion to dismiss was pending, Plaintiff filed an "advice of settlement" indicating that the parties reached a settlement-in-principle in this suit and the ancillary suit. Later that year, the district court entered its orders. Of import here was the court's finding that the Illinois judgment could not be re-registered in Colorado, and therefore, Plaintiff lacked standing to enforce the judgment. Plaintiff moved to vacate or modify the court's decision in light of the advice of settlement. Defendant responded by filing a notice of its intent not to participate in the appeal, stating that it had settled all claims with the class members. Upon careful consideration of the legal authority and the lengthy court record of this case, the Tenth Circuit concluded that language in the settlement stipulating that once the settlement agreement was executed the parties would dismiss their pending lawsuit controlled in this case. The Court concluded that the district court should have "treated the stipulation as a self-executing dismissal;" Accordingly, the district court's granting of Defendant's motion to dismiss on the merits was void because it was issued after the stipulation was filed and therefore in the absence of jurisdiction." The Court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case with directions to the lower court to dismiss the entire action with prejudice.
Aziz, et al. v. Alcolac, Inc., et al.
Appellants filed a class action, alleging that defendant, a chemical manufacturer, sold thiodiglycol (TDG) to Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime, which then used it to manufacture mustard gas to kill Kurdish enclaves in northern Iraq during the late 1980's. At issue was whether appellants have alleged viable claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), 28 U.S.C. 1350, or the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. 1350. The court held that the TVPA excluded corporations from liability. The court also held that the ATS imposed liability for aiding and abetting violations of international law, but only if the attendant conduct was purposeful. Appellants, however, have failed to plead facts sufficient to support the intent element of their ATS claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).