May 29, 2012
D.C. Circuit Holds No Personal Jurisdiction Over the Port Authority of Liberia
Plaintiff, a construction company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and headquartered in Israel, and defendant, the National Port Authority of Liberia, entered into a contract to build and operate a container park in Monrovia, Liberia's capital. Shortly thereafter, however, the government of Liberia changed, and the new government repudiated the contract for alleged failure to comply with competitive bidding procedures. Plaintiff initiated an arbitration proceeding in London, and the arbitrator awarded over $44,000,000 in damages to plaintiff. Plaintiff then filed an action to confirm the arbitration award against defendant in the D.C. district court. The district court dismissed the action for lack of personal jurisdiction.
On appeal, the D.C. Circuit held that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act provided statutory personal jurisdiction over the Port Authority, but that the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause also required constitutional personal jurisdiction. The Port Authority, although state-owned, established its juridical separateness from the government of Liberia, which, as a foreign state, was not a "person" protected by the Fifth Amendment. Because the plaintiff failed to show minimum contacts of the Port Authority with the United States, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction. GSS Group Ltd. v. National Port Authority, No. 11-7093 (D.C. Cir. May 25, 2012).