Published on:

U.S. Supreme Court Discusses Foreign Government Liability in Recent Case

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court handed down an opinion discussing the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and how it can prevent an accident victim from recovering compensation for their injuries in some personal injury cases filed against foreign entities.

train-1450658OBB Personenverkehr AG v. Sachs

In the case, OBB Personenverkehr AG v. Sachs, the plaintiff was a woman who had purchased a Eurorail train pass from a U.S.-based retailer online. On her subsequent trip to Austria, the woman suffered a serious injury when she fell from a train platform. The woman sued the company operating the train, OBB Personenverkehr AG (“OBB”), which is wholly owned by the Austrian government.

The case was filed in a federal district court in California, alleging that the negligence of the defendant was what caused her to fall and sustain her serious injury. At trial, OBB asked the court to dismiss the case based on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which grants immunity to foreign governments in personal injury lawsuits. However, the plaintiff claimed that her case fit into an exception to that general rule, and immunity did not attach. Specifically, she claimed that her case fit into the “commercial activity” exception, which applies when the lawsuit “is based upon a commercial activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state.”

The trial court granted OBB’s motion and dismissed the case. Not satisfied with that result, the plaintiff appealed to the intermediate court of appeals, which reversed the lower court’s opinion. However, OBB then appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s Opinion

The Supreme Court reversed the intermediate appellate court’s opinion, again dismissing the case. The Court noted that, in order for the commercial activity exception to apply, the “gravamen” of the plaintiff’s complaint must arise from the commercial activity that occurred in the United States. Here, the Court noted, that the only activity that occurred in the United States was the sale of the Eurorail pass. This was not the “gravamen” of the complaint, since the plaintiff’s slip-and-fall accident was not caused by the sale of the ticket but by the alleged negligence at the train station in Austria. As a result, the federal district court was proper in dismissing the case based on the immunity of OBB.

Have You Been Injured Abroad?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of accident abroad, you may still be entitled to monetary compensation. While this case was ultimately dismissed based on the immunity of a foreign government, other foreign actors do not necessarily enjoy this immunity. In fact, even foreign governments will not always enjoy this immunity, depending on the circumstances of the accident. These cases are handled on a case-by-case basis, and it is possible to establish a waiver of that immunity in some cases. Due to the complexity involved in these cases, it is best to consult with a dedicated personal injury attorney prior to filing your case. The skilled advocates at Miller Legal Services have decades of combined experience helping injured Georgians get the compensation they deserve. Call 770-284-3727 to set up your free consultation today.

See Related Blog Posts:

Causal Link Necessary in Georgia Premises Liability Claims, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 8, 2015.

Slip-and-Fall Injury Case Occurring at a Georgia Hospital Need Not Comply with Medical Malpractice Requirements, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, November 25, 2015.