The Tort Exception’s Situs Requirement

The FSIA’s tort exception requires an action “in which money damages are sought against a foreign state for personal injury or death, or damage to or loss of property, occurring in the United States . . . .”  28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(5).  As exemplified by a recent decision from the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, courts have long held that jurisdiction lies under the tort exception only if the entire tort occurred within the United States.  See Fernandez v. Spain, CIV. 13-1911 PG, 2014 WL 1807069, at *2 (D.P.R. May 7, 2014); see also, e.g., Argentine Republic v. Amerada Hess Shipping Corp., 488 U.S. 428, 441 (1989); In re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, 714 F.3d 109, 116 (2d Cir. 2013); O’Bryan v. Holy See, 556 F.3d 361, 382 (6th Cir. 2009); Cabiri v. Gov’t of Republic of Ghana, 165 F.3d 193, 200 n.3 (2d Cir. 1999); Wolf v. Fed. Republic of Germany,95 F.3d 536, 542 (7th Cir. 1996); Jones v. Petty-Ray Geophysical Geosource, Inc., 954 F.2d 1061, 1065 (5th Cir. 1992); Asociacion de Reclamantes v. United Mexican States, 735 F.2d 1517, 1524-25 (D.C. Cir. 1984); Abrams v. Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais, 175 F. Supp. 2d 423, 431 (E.D.N.Y. 2001), vacated on other grounds by 332 F.3d 173 (2d Cir. 2003), cert. granted and vacated, 542 U.S. 901 (2004), aff’d 389 F.3d 61 (2d Cir. 2004); Sampson v. Fed. Republic of Germany, 975 F. Supp. 1108, 1118 (N.D. Ill. 1997); S. Seafood Co. v. Holt Cargo Sys., Inc., No. Civ.A.96-5217, 1997 WL 539763, at *7 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 1997); Cabiri v. Gov’t of Republic of Ghana, 981 F. Supp. 129, 132 (E.D.N.Y. 1997), aff’d in part and rev’d on other grounds in 165 F.3d 193 (2d Cir. 1999); Hirsh v. State of Israel, 962 F. Supp. 377, 383-84 (S.D.N.Y. 1997); Rein v. Rein, No. 95 Civ. 4030 (SHS), 1996 WL 273993, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. May 23, 1996); Coleman v. Alcolac, Inc., 888 F. Supp. 1388, 1403 (S.D. Tex. 1995); Smith v. Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, 886 F. Supp. 306, 313 (E.D.N.Y. 1995); El-Fadl v. Cent. Bank of Jordan, No. Civ.A. 93-1895 RMU, 1994 WL 1656111, at *4 (D.D.C. Nov. 9, 1994); Velasquez v. Gen. Consulate of Mexico, No. C-92-3745 CFL, 1993 WL 69493, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 4, 1993); Intercont’l Dictionary Series v. De Gruyter, 822 F. Supp. 662, 677 (C.D. Cal. 1993), disapproved on other grounds in Sun v. Taiwan, 201 F.3d 110 (9th Cir. 2000); Denegri v. Republic of Chile, Civ. A. No. 86-3085, 1992 WL 91914, at *2 (D.D.C. Apr. 6, 1992); Antares Aircraft L.P. v. Fed. Republic of Nigeria, No. 89 Civ. 6513(JSM), 1991 WL 29287, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 1, 1991); Polanco v. Dominican Republic, No. 90 Civ. 7089 (WK),1991 WL 146306, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 22, 1991); Fickling v. Commw. of Australia, 775 F. Supp. 66, 72 (E.D.N.Y. 1991); Von Dardel v. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 736 F. Supp. 1, 7-8 (D.D.C. 1990); Goquiolay v. Philippines Nat’l Bank, No. 90 CIV. 893 (CSH), 1990 WL 144118, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 28, 1990); Bennett v. Stephens, CIV. A. No. 88-2610 (RCL), 1989 WL 17751, at *4 (D.D.C. Feb. 23, 1989); Kline v. Kaneko, 685 F. Supp. 386, 391 (S.D.N.Y. 1988); Four Corners Helicopters, Inc. v. Turbomeca S.A., 677 F. Supp. 1096, 1102 (D. Colo. 1988); English v. Thorne, 676 F. Supp. 761, 764 (S.D. Miss. 1987); Ledgerwood v. State of Iran, 617 F. Supp. 311, 314 (D.D.C. 1985); Kline v. Republic of El Salvador, 603 F. Supp. 1313, 1315-16 (D.D.C. 1985); Evans v. Petroleo, Civil Action No. H-83-91, 1984 WL 1887, at *1 (S.D. Tex. Aug. 2, 1984); In re Sedco, Inc., 543 F. Supp. 561, 567 (S.D. Tex. 1982); cf. H.R. Rep. No. 1487, at 21 (1976).

The tort exception’s situs requirement is a critical limitation on jurisdiction over foreign torts under the FSIA.  In light of the recognized importance of such limitations in international law (cf. Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., — U.S. —, 133 S. Ct. 1659, 1669 (2013)), it should continue to be strongly enforced by courts in the United States.

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