Justia International Trade Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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Corning hired Hyundai, an ocean shipper, to transport thin glass sheets for use in televisions and computer monitors from the U.S. to Asia. Although it is not clear when the damage occurred, damage was noted when Hyundai unloaded the containers from flatcars operated by its subcontractors (Norfolk Southern Railway and BNSF, another rail carrier). Corning had no role in selecting and no relationship with the subcontractors. There were opinions that the damage was caused by movement of the railcars, not by packing, but the actual cause was not established. Corning’s insurer paid Corning $664,679.88 and filed suit. The district court held that the case would proceed solely under the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. 11706, apparently reasoning that the damage undisputedly occurred while the cargo was in the possession of a rail carrier. The court found that a Subcontracting Clause did not immunize the rail carriers from suit, but obligated Corning to indemnify Hyundai for any resultant claims by a subcontractor against Hyundai arising out of the same facts. The court held that a $500-per-package limit of liability did not apply to the rail carriers or Hyundai. After a jury trial, the court found Hyundai and the railroads liable, but denied prejudgment interest. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment against Hyundai, reversed and vacated judgments against the railroads, and remanded for reconsideration of prejudgment interest.View "CNA Ins. Co. v. Hyundai Merch. Marine Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

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In 2004 GEA, a German company, agreed to sell a subsidiary, DNK, to Flex‐N‐Gate, a U.S. manufacturer for €430 million. The contract required arbitration of all disputes in Germany. The sale did not close. GEA initiated arbitration before the Arbitral Tribunal of the German Institution of Arbitration. The arbitration was pending in 2009 when GEA filed suit in an Illinois federal district court, against Flex‐N‐Gate and its CEO, Khan, alleging that the defendants had fraudulently induced it to enter into the contract; that Khan stripped the company of assets so that it would be unable to pay any arbitration award; and that Khan was Flex‐N‐Gate’s alter ego. GEA then asked the district judge to stay proceedings, including discovery. The judge declined to stay discovery. GEA filed a notice of appeal after the German arbitration panel awarded GEA damages and costs totaling $293.3 million. The Seventh Circuit dismissed GEA’s appeal as moot, but the German Higher Regional Court in vacated the arbitration award. GEA renewed its motion. The district judge again denied the stay, stating that he was unsure how the arbitration would affect the case before him and didn’t want to wait to find out. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The district judge then imposed a stay, which it later lifted for the limited purpose of allowing Khan to conduct discovery aimed at preserving evidence that might be germane to GEA’s claims against him in the district court suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first holding that it had appellate jurisdiction.View "GEA Group AG v. Baker" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a dispute between the parties over license agreements which allowed Myriad access to Oracle's Java programming language. On appeal, Myriad challenged the district court's partial denial of its motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the incorporation of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) arbitration rules into the parties' commercial contract constituted clear and unmistakable evidence that the parties agreed to arbitrate arbitrability. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Oracle America, Inc. v. Myriad Group A.G." on Justia Law

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Triple A, a Michigan corporation, has offices in Dearborn, Michigan, the Congo (previously known as Zaire), and Sierra Leone. In 1993, Zaire ordered military equipment worth $14,070,000 from Triple A. A South Korean manufacturer shipped the equipment to Zaire at Triple A’s request. For 17 years, Triple A sought payment from Zaire and then the Congo without success. In 2010, Triple A sued the Congo for breach of contract. The district court dismissed the case, citing lack of jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, citing the language of the Act, under which federal courts have jurisdiction “in any case in which the action is based upon” the following: [1] a commercial activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state; or [2] upon an act performed in the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere; or [3] upon an act outside the territory of the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere and that act causes a direct effect in the United States. View "Triple A Int'l, Inc. v. Democratic Republic of the Congo" on Justia Law

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Johnson Controls, a Wisconsin manufacturer of building management systems and HVAC equipment, and Edman Controls entered into an agreement giving Edman exclusive rights to distribute Johnson’s products in Panama. In 2009, Johnson breached the agreement by attempting to sell its products directly to Panamanian developers, circumventing Edman. Edman invoked the agreement’s arbitration clause. The arbitrator concluded that Johnson had breached the agreement and that Edman was entitled to damages. Johnson sought to vacate or modify the arbitral award, challenging the way in which the award took account of injuries to Edman’s subsidiaries and the arbitrator’s alleged refusal to follow Wisconsin law. The district court ruled in Edman’s favor. The Seventh Circuit affirmed and upheld the district court’s award of attorney fees. View "Johnson Controls, Inc. v. Edman Controls, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1996 Beloit agreed to build high-speed paper-making machines for Indonesian paper companies. Two of the companies executed promissory notes in favor of Beloit reflecting a principal indebtedness of $43.8 million. The paper companies guaranteed the notes; Beloit assigned them to JPMorgan in exchange for construction financing. The machines were delivered in 1998 but did not run as specified. In 2000 the parties settled claims pertaining to the machines but preserved obligations under the notes. JPMorgan sued for nonpayment. The district court held that warranty-based claims were foreclosed by the settlement and that other defenses lacked merit; it awarded JPMorgan $53 million. After the appeal was filed, JPMorgan issued citations to discover assets. Although the companies raised an international conflict-of-law question, the district court ordered compliance with the citations. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The settlement waived implied warranty defenses and counterclaims. The fraud defense is also mostly barred; to the extent it is not, the evidence was insufficient to survive summary judgment. The court also rejected defenses that the notes lacked consideration; that the notes were issued for a “special purpose” and were not intended to be repaid; and that JPMorgan is not a holder in due course. The discovery order was not appealable. View "JPMorgan Chase & Co., N.A. v. Asia Pulp & Paper Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

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CS manufactures and sells X-ray and metal detection devices for use in public facilities around the world. Tecapro is a private, state-owned company that was formed by the Vietnamese government to advanced technologies into the Vietnamese market. In 2010, Tecapro purchased 28 customized AutoClear X-ray machines from CS for $1,021,156. The contract provides that disputes shall be settled at International Arbitration Center of European countries for claim in the suing party’s country under the rule of the Center. Tecapro initiated arbitration proceedings in Belgium in November 2010. In December 2010, CS notified Tecapro of its intention to commence arbitration proceedings in New Jersey. In January 2011, CS filed its petition to compel arbitration in New Jersey and enjoin Tecapro from proceeding with arbitration in Belgium. The district court concluded that it had subject matter jurisdiction under the U.N.Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, that it had personal jurisdiction over Tecapro, and that Tecapro could have sought to arbitrate in Vietnam and CS in New Jersey. The latter is what happened, so “the arbitration shall proceed in New Jersey.” After determining that it had jurisdiction under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1, the Third Circuit affirmed.View "Control Screening LLC v. Technological Application & Prod. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sought damages resulting from a delayed delivery of perishable food items from Puerto Limón, Costa Rica to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The district court dismissed as time-barred by the statute of limitations in the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, 46 U.S.C. 30701. The First Circuit affirmed,rejecting and argument that the parties meant to incorporate COGSA solely for the purpose of limiting the carrier's liability to $500, per COGSA's limitation of liability provision and equitable arguments.View "Greenpack of PR, Inc. v. Am. President Lines" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a foreign shipping contract billing dispute between Consorcio Ecuatoriano de Telecomunicaciones S.A. (CONECEL) and Jet Air Service Equador S.A. (JASE). CONECEL filed an application in the Southern District of Florida under 28 U.S.C. 1782 to obtain discovery for use in foreign proceedings in Ecuador. According to CONECEL, the foreign proceedings included both a pending arbitration brought by JASE against CONECEL for nonpayment under the contract, and contemplated civil and private criminal suits CONECEL might bring against two of its former employees who, CONECEL claims, may have violated Ecuador's collusion laws in connection with processing and approving JASE's allegedly inflated invoices. CONECEL's application sought discovery from JASE's United States counterpart, JAS Forwarding (USA), Inc. (JAS USA), which does business in Miami and was involved in the invoicing operations at issue in the dispute. The district court granted the application and authorized CONECEL to issue a subpoena. Thereafter, JASE intervened and moved to quash the subpoena and vacate the order granting the application. The district court denied the motion, as well as a subsequent motion for reconsideration. JASE appealed the denial of both. After thorough review and having had the benefit of oral argument, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the orders of the district court. the Court concluded that the panel before which which JASE and CONECEL's dispute was pending acts as a first-instance decisionmaker; it permits the gathering and submission of evidence; it resolves the dispute; it issues a binding order; and its order is subject to judicial review. The discovery statute requires nothing more. The Court also held that the district court did not abuse its considerable discretion in granting the section 1782 discovery application over JASE's objections that it would be forced to produce proprietary and confidential information. The application was narrowly tailored and primarily requested information concerning JASE's billing of CONECEL, which was undeniably at issue in the current dispute between the parties." Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying JASE's motion for reconsideration. View "In re: Application of Consorcio Ecuatoriano" on Justia Law

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Appellants, the M/V Akili, its owner, and manager, appealed from the district court's judgment holding that it was liable in rem for damage to cargo shipped aboard the vessel. Ferrostaal cross-appealed from the holding that the owner and manager were not liable in personam under a bailment theory. At issue was whether (1) an in rem proceeding rendering the Akili liable for damage to, or loss of, cargo was unavailable in this matter because a vessel was not a "carrier" within the meaning of the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA), 46 U.S.C. 30701, and (ii) the free-in-and-out provision in the Voyage Charter Party purportedly absolving the Akili of in rem liability was enforceable. The court held that the first issue was essentially irrelevant because a vessel's in rem liability for damage to cargo existed under maritime common law, not COGSA, for a violation of a carrier's contractual or statutory obligations. The court resolved the second issue against enforcement of the free-in-and-out provision so far as it might be construed to prevent in rem liability of the vessel. In doing so, the court did not decide whether COGSA applied as a matter of law to this voyage because, even if it did not, the Voyage Charter Party's Clause Paramount contractually incorporated the Hague-Visby rules prohibiting a carrier from contracting for a waiver of its obligations regarding damage to cargo. The court also held that there was no in personam liability for the owner and manager where the carriers remained responsible for delivery of the goods and maintained exclusive control and custody over the cargos through agents they hired directly. View "Man Ferrostaal, Inc. v. M/V Akili" on Justia Law