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Argentine Republic v. Amerada Hess Shipping Corp.

Supreme Court of the United States

December 6, 1988, Argued ; January 23, 1989, Decided

No. 87-1372

Opinion

 [*431]  [***826]  [**686]    CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

 

Two Liberian corporations sued the Argentine Republic in a United States District Court to recover damages for a tort allegedly committed by its armed forces on the high seas in violation of international law. We hold that the District Court correctly dismissed the action, because the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA), 28 U. S. C. § 1330 et seq., does not authorize jurisdiction over a foreign state in this situation.

Respondents alleged the following facts in their complaints. Respondent United Carriers, Inc., a Liberian corporation, chartered one of its oil tankers, the Hercules, to respondent Amerada Hess Shipping Corporation, also a Liberian corporation.  [****8]  The contract was executed in New York City. Amerada Hess used the Hercules to transport crude oil from the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in Valdez, Alaska, around Cape Horn in South America, to the Hess refinery in the United States Virgin Islands. On May 25, 1982, the Hercules began a return voyage, without cargo but fully fueled, from the Virgin Islands to Alaska. At that time, Great Britain and petitioner Argentine Republic  [**687]  were at war over an archipelago of some 200 islands -- the Falkland Islands to the British, and the Islas Malvinas to the Argentineans -- in the South Atlantic off the Argentine coast. On June 3, United States officials informed the two belligerents of the location of United States vessels and Liberian tankers owned by United States interests then traversing the South Atlantic, including the Hercules, to avoid any attacks on neutral shipping.

By June 8, 1982, after a stop in Brazil, the Hercules was in international waters about 600 nautical miles from Argentina and 500 miles from the Falklands; she was outside the "war zones" designated by Britain and Argentina. At 12:15 Greenwich mean time, the ship's master made a routine [****9]  report by radio to Argentine officials, providing the ship's  [*432]  name, international call sign, registry, position, course, speed, and voyage description. About 45 minutes later, an Argentine military aircraft began to circle the Hercules. The ship's master repeated his earlier message by radio to Argentine officials, who acknowledged receiving it. Six minutes later, without provocation, another Argentine military plane began to bomb the Hercules; the master immediately hoisted a white flag. A second bombing soon followed, and a third attack came about two hours later, when an Argentine jet struck the ship with an air-to-surface rocket. Disabled but not destroyed, the Hercules reversed course and sailed to Rio de Janeiro, the nearest safe port. At Rio de Janeiro, respondent United Carriers determined that the ship had suffered extensive deck and hull damage, and that an undetonated bomb remained lodged in her No. 2 tank. After an investigation by the Brazilian Navy, United Carriers decided that it would be too hazardous to remove the undetonated bomb, and on July 20, 1982, the Hercules was scuttled 250 miles off the Brazilian coast.

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488 U.S. 428 *; 109 S. Ct. 683 **; 102 L. Ed. 2d 818 ***; 1989 U.S. LEXIS 581 ****; 57 U.S.L.W. 4121; 1989 AMC 501

ARGENTINE REPUBLIC v. AMERADA HESS SHIPPING CORP. ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.

Disposition:  830 F. 2d 421, reversed.

CORE TERMS

foreign state, Alien, immunity, courts, district court, international law, ship, high seas, territorial, respondents', admiralty, maritime, federal court, waters, cases, suits, international agreement, foreign sovereign immunities, subject-matter, Convention, merchant ship, provisions, violations, occurring, Islands, repeal, bomb

Civil Procedure, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction Over Actions, General Overview, International Law, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Jurisdiction, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Sovereign Immunity, International Trade Law, Dispute Resolution, Foreign & International Immunity, Service of Process, Methods of Service, Foreign Service, Jurisdictional Sources, Exceptions, In Rem & Personal Jurisdiction, Preliminary Considerations, Venue, In Personam Jurisdiction, Admiralty & Maritime Law, Foreign Governments, Governments, Federal Government, US Congress, Construction & Interpretation, Immigration Law, Enforcement of Immigration Laws, Civil Liability, Torts, Procedural Matters, Commencement & Prosecution, Authority to Regulate, Anticompetitive Activities, Trade Agreements, Federal Questions, Pleadings, Interpleader, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, Sovereign Immunity, Shipping, Regulations & Statutes, Maritime Liens, Enforcement, Jurisdiction, Priority & Sources, Contracts, Authority to Encumber, Practice & Procedure, Statutory Sources, Business & Corporate Compliance, Transportation Law, Water Transportation, Licensing & Registration, Tort Claims & Settlements, Maritime Personal Injuries, Commercial Activities, Direct Effects, Expropriation, Noncommercial Torts, Waivers, Types of Damages, Property Damages, Legislation, Interpretation, Business Torts