Jerez v. Republic Cuba, Misc. Action No. 09–466 (RWR).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRICHARD W. ROBERTS
Citation964 F.Supp.2d 52
PartiesNilo JEREZ, Plaintiff, v. REPUBLIC OF CUBA, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberMisc. Action No. 09–466 (RWR).
Decision Date29 August 2013

964 F.Supp.2d 52

Nilo JEREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
REPUBLIC OF CUBA, et al., Defendants.

Misc. Action No. 09–466 (RWR).

United States District Court,
District of Columbia.

Aug. 29, 2013.


[964 F.Supp.2d 53]


Richard J. Oparil, Patton Boggs LLP, Washington, DC, Kevin M. Bell, Patton Boggs LLP, McLean, VA, for Plaintiff.

David R. Garcia, Coral Gables, FL, Pro Hac, Vice.


Joseph I. Zumpano, Coral Gables, FL, Pro Hac, Vice.

Leon N. Patricios, Coral Gables, FL, Pro Hac, Vice.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD W. ROBERTS, Chief Judge.

Plaintiff Nilo Jerez brought this action to enforce a default judgment against defendants the Republic of Cuba, Fidel Castro Ruz, Raul Castro Ruz, the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces and El Ministerio Del Interior. The motion by entities that Jerez alleged in an application for a writ of attachment are agencies and instrumentalities of the Republic of Cuba

[964 F.Supp.2d 54]

(“third party movants”) 1 to vacate the writ of attachment, Jerez's motion for an order to show cause why the writ of attachment should not be issued against the third party movants, and the intervenor Camara de Comercio's motion to vacate the writ of attachment were referred to Magistrate Judge Alan Kay who found that there was no subject matter jurisdiction to enforce Jerez's state court default judgment and that Jerez's writ of attachment was not enforceable. Jerez filed objections under Local Civil Rule 72.2(b) to the magistrate judge's order.2 Because the magistrate judge's rulings as to subject matter jurisdiction are not clearly erroneous or contrary to law, Jerez's objections will be overruled.

BACKGROUND

The extensive factual and procedural history of this dispute is set forth in detail in Jerez v. Republic of Cuba, 777 F.Supp.2d 6 (D.D.C.2011). Briefly, Jerez filed a complaint in 2005 in Florida state court against the Republic of Cuba, Fidel Castro Ruz, Raul Castro Ruz, the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces and El Ministerio del Interior seeking damages for the physical and mental torture he allegedly endured when he was incarcerated in Cuban prisons in the early 1970's. Id. at 10–11. Jerez alleged that he was purposefully infected with Hepatitis C and developed cirrhosis of the liver, among other injuries. Pl.'s Objections to Magistrate Judge's Mem. Op. and Order (“Pl.'s Objs.”) at 6. In 2007, Jerez obtained a default judgment against the defendants in the Florida state court. Id. at 8; Opp'n to Pl.'s Objections by Centro de Bioactivos Químicos et al. (“Defs.' Opp'n”) at 2. In May 2009, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted full faith and credit to the state court judgment and entered default judgment against the defendants. Pl.'s Objs. at 9; Defs.' Opp'n at 2. In September 2009, Jerez registered his Southern District of Florida default judgment in this court and filed a writ of attachment seeking to attach assets of the named defendants and of entities alleged to be agencies and instrumentalities of the defendants. Pl.'s Objs. at 9; Defs.' Opp'n at 3. Third party movants whose property Jerez sought to attach, but who were not named as defendants in the Southern District of Florida's default judgment, moved to vacate the writ. 3 Jerez then moved for an order to show cause why a writ of attachment should not be issued against the agencies and instrumentalities of the Republic of Cuba and its co-defendants. Camara del Comercio, which was permitted to intervene, moved to vacate plaintiff's writ of attachment with respect to the Republic of Cuba's registration of its certification mark for Cuban Cigars. Magistrate Judge Kay found that the Florida state court did not have subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330, 1602 et seq.Jerez, 777 F.Supp.2d at 25–26. In addition, the magistrate judge found that the writ of attachment was unenforceable under the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and related

[964 F.Supp.2d 55]

statutory authority even if the Florida state court had subject matter jurisdiction. Id. at 29. Finally, the magistrate judge decided that the attachment of the trademark would be impermissible. Id. at 32. Jerez filed objections to the magistrate judge's decision arguing that the magistrate judge erred on each issue.

DISCUSSION

“Upon consideration of objections filed ..., a district judge may modify or set aside any portion of a magistrate judge's order ... found to be clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” LCvR 72.2(c); see alsoFed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Factual findings are subject to the clearly erroneous standard and will be affirmed unless “the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Am. Ctr. for Civil Justice v. Ambush, 794 F.Supp.2d 123, 129 (D.D.C.2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). “The contrary to law standard, by contrast, permits de novo review of a magistrate judge's legal conclusions.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

I. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

Jerez objects to the magistrate judge's decision that there is no subject matter jurisdiction under the FSIA. The FSIA is the “ ‘sole basis for obtaining jurisdiction over a foreign state in our courts.’ ” Nemariam v. Fed. Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, 491 F.3d 470, 474 (D.C.Cir.2007) (quoting Argentine Republic v. Amerada Hess Shipping Corp., 488 U.S. 428, 434, 109 S.Ct. 683, 102 L.Ed.2d 818 (1989)). “Under the FSIA, a court may entertain jurisdiction over a civil complaint directed against a foreign sovereign ‘only if the foreign state lacks immunity under the Act's prescriptions[.]’ ” Doe v. Bin Laden, 580 F.Supp.2d 93, 96 (D.D.C.2008) (alteration in original) (quoting Practical Concepts, Inc. v. Republic of Bolivia, 811 F.2d 1543, 1544 (D.C.Cir.1987)). “When a defendant qualifies for sovereign immunity, ‘the federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction’ over proceedings against that defendant, and therefore ‘must dismiss the case’ against the immune defendant.” Inversora Murten, S.A. v. Energoprojekt Holding Co., 671 F.Supp.2d 152, 155 (D.D.C.2009) (quoting Auster v. Ghana Airways, Ltd., 514 F.3d 44, 48 (D.C.Cir.2008)). “An agency or instrumentality of a foreign state is treated as a foreign state under the FSIA, ... and thus is ‘immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States.’ ” Id. (quoting Peterson v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 563 F.Supp.2d 268, 273 (D.D.C.2008)). The FSIA provides exceptions which allow a plaintiff to bring suit when particular conditions are met. Bin Laden, 580 F.Supp.2d at 96 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1605). The plaintiff bears the burden of showing that an FSIA exception allows waiver of the defendants' sovereign immunity. Id. at 96–97 (citing Youming Jin v. Ministry of State Sec., 475 F.Supp.2d 54, 61 (D.D.C.2007)).

Jerez argues that two waivers of sovereign immunity are applicable under the FSIA: the non-commercial tort exception under 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(5) and the terrorism exception under 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(7).

A. Non-commercial tort exception

Under the non-commercial tort exception, a waiver of sovereign immunity is appropriate where a party seeks money damages against a foreign state when the injury was caused by “the tortious act or omission of that foreign state or of any official[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(5). It is well-settled in the D.C. Circuit that under

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this provision, “both the tort and the injury must occur in the United States.” Persinger v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 729 F.2d 835, 842 (D.C.Cir.1984); accord Cicippio v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 30 F.3d 164, 169 (D.C.Cir.1994). The Supreme Court has recognized that “Congress' primary purpose in enacting § 1605(a)(5) was to eliminate a foreign state's immunity for traffic accidents and other torts committed in the United States[.]” Amerada Hess, 488 U.S. at 439–40, 109 S.Ct. 683;see alsoH.R.Rep. No. 94–1487, at 20–21 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6604, 6619 (stating that “Section 1605(a)(5) is directed primarily at the problem of traffic accidents but is cast in general terms.... It denies immunity as to claims for personal injury or death ...; the tortious act or omission must occur within the jurisdiction of the United States”). Unlike the commercial activity exception to the FSIA under § 1605(a)(2), which allows consideration of whether a foreign activity had a “direct effect” inside the United States, the non-commercial tort exception “covers only torts occurring within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” Amerada Hess, 488 U.S. at 441, 109 S.Ct. 683.

Overall, Jerez argues that the magistrate judge erred in finding the non-commercial tort exception inapplicable because of the continuing nature of his injuries. In particular, Jerez states that the replication of the Hepatitis C virus within his body creates separate and distinct tortious acts within the United States. Pl.'s Objs. at 28. Under a similar theory, Jerez argues that cirrhosis of the liver caused by the Hepatitis C is a separate and distinct tortious act which occurred in the United States and therefore the waiver of sovereign immunity is valid. Id. at 30. However, this interpretation would broaden the non-commercial tort exception far beyond the expectation of Congress. The D.C. Circuit has been vigilant in limiting this exception to circumstances where both the tort and the injury occurred in the United States and rejecting claims to the contrary. See Persinger, 729 F.2d at 839–43 (reviewing the legislative history and concluding that the parents' emotional distress arising from their son being taken hostage did not fall within the exception because “both the tort and injury must occur in the United States”); Asociación de Reclamantes v. United Mexican States, 735 F.2d 1517, 1525 (D.C.Cir.1984) (requiring the “entire tort” to have occurred in the United States); see also Cicippio, 30 F.3d at 169. In this case, even if the injuries—Hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the...

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6 practice notes
  • Volloldo v. Ruz, 1:14-mc-0025 (LEK/CFH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • January 7, 2016
    ...that the plaintiffs' state court judgments were entitled to full faith and credit. Id. at 476-77. In Jerez v. Republic of Cuba, 964 F. Supp. 2d 52 (D.D.C. 2013), the court distinguishedPage 12 Weininger and reached a different conclusion. In Jerez, the plaintiff brought an action in D.C. di......
  • Jerez v. Republic of Cuba, No. 13–7141.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 30, 2014
    ...F.Supp.2d 6 (D.D.C.2011). The district judge overruled Jerez's objections to the magistrate judge's order, Jerez v. Republic of Cuba, 964 F.Supp.2d 52 (D.D.C.2013), and issued an order to that effect. We affirm the district court.* * * A default judgment rendered in excess of a court's juri......
  • Diba v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action 20-0240 (ABJ)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • March 31, 2022
    ...of sovereign immunity pursuant to Section 1605(a)(7)” because plaintiff was not a U.S. national at the time), objections overruled, 964 F.Supp.2d 52 (D.D.C. 2013), aff'd, 775 F.3d 419 (D.C. Cir. 2014). Here, plaintiff has been released from Iran's custody or physical control since at least ......
  • Dimondstein v. Am. Postal Workers Union, Civil Action No. 13–1228 (CKK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 29, 2013
    ...merits of their claim that such action is required by section 401(c) of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. Similarly, [964 F.Supp.2d 52]Plaintiffs have shown that a likelihood of irreparable harm should the injunction not issue, that the balance of equities tips in their fav......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • Volloldo v. Ruz, 1:14-mc-0025 (LEK/CFH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • January 7, 2016
    ...that the plaintiffs' state court judgments were entitled to full faith and credit. Id. at 476-77. In Jerez v. Republic of Cuba, 964 F. Supp. 2d 52 (D.D.C. 2013), the court distinguishedPage 12 Weininger and reached a different conclusion. In Jerez, the plaintiff brought an action in D.C. di......
  • Jerez v. Republic of Cuba, No. 13–7141.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 30, 2014
    ...F.Supp.2d 6 (D.D.C.2011). The district judge overruled Jerez's objections to the magistrate judge's order, Jerez v. Republic of Cuba, 964 F.Supp.2d 52 (D.D.C.2013), and issued an order to that effect. We affirm the district court.* * * A default judgment rendered in excess of a court's juri......
  • Diba v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action 20-0240 (ABJ)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • March 31, 2022
    ...of sovereign immunity pursuant to Section 1605(a)(7)” because plaintiff was not a U.S. national at the time), objections overruled, 964 F.Supp.2d 52 (D.D.C. 2013), aff'd, 775 F.3d 419 (D.C. Cir. 2014). Here, plaintiff has been released from Iran's custody or physical control since at least ......
  • Dimondstein v. Am. Postal Workers Union, Civil Action No. 13–1228 (CKK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 29, 2013
    ...merits of their claim that such action is required by section 401(c) of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. Similarly, [964 F.Supp.2d 52]Plaintiffs have shown that a likelihood of irreparable harm should the injunction not issue, that the balance of equities tips in their fav......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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