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Societe Nationale Industrielle Aerospatiale v. United States Dist. Court for S. Dist.

Supreme Court of the United States

January 14, 1987, Argued ; June 15, 1987, Decided

No. 85-1695

Opinion

 [*524]  [***471]  [**2545]    JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

 The United States, the Republic of France, and 15 other Nations have acceded to the Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters, opened for signature, Mar. 18, 1970, 23 U. S. T. 2555, T. I. A. S. No.  [***472]  7444. 2 This Convention -- sometimes referred to as the "Hague Convention" or the "Evidence Convention" -- prescribes certain procedures by which a judicial authority in one contracting state may request evidence located  [**2546]   [****6]  in another contracting state. The question presented in this case concerns the extent to which a federal district court must employ the procedures set forth in the Convention when litigants seek answers to interrogatories, the production of documents, and admissions from a French adversary over whom the court has personal jurisdiction.

The two petitioners are corporations owned by the Republic of France. 3 They are engaged in the business of designing,  [*525]  manufacturing, and marketing aircraft. One of their planes, the "Rallye," was allegedly advertised in American aviation publications [****7]  as "the World's safest and most economical STOL plane." 4 On August 19, 1980, a Rallye crashed in Iowa, injuring the pilot and a passenger. Dennis Jones, John George, and Rosa George brought separate suits based upon this accident in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, alleging that petitioners had manufactured and sold a defective plane and that they were guilty of negligence and breach of warranty. Petitioners answered the complaints, apparently without questioning the jurisdiction of the District Court. With the parties' consent, the cases were consolidated and referred to a Magistrate. See 28 U. S. C. § 636(c)(1).

 [****8]  Initial discovery was conducted by both sides pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure without objection. 5 [****9]  When plaintiffs 6 served a second request for the production of documents pursuant to Rule 34, a set of interrogatories pursuant to Rule 33, and requests for admission pursuant to Rule 36, however, petitioners filed a motion for a protective order. App. 27-37. The motion alleged that because petitioners are "French corporations, and the discovery  [***473]  sought  [*526]  can only be found in a foreign state, namely France," the Hague Convention dictated the exclusive procedures that must be followed for pretrial discovery. App. 2. In addition, the motion stated that under French penal law, the petitioners could not respond to discovery requests that did not comply with the Convention. Ibid. 7

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482 U.S. 522 *; 107 S. Ct. 2542 **; 96 L. Ed. 2d 461 ***; 1987 U.S. LEXIS 2615 ****; 55 U.S.L.W. 4842; 7 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 1105

SOCIETE NATIONALE INDUSTRIELLE AEROSPATIALE ET AL. v. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA

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

Disposition:  782 F.2d 120, vacated and remanded.

CORE TERMS

Convention, discovery, courts, abroad, documents, comity, contracting, parties, treaty, taking of evidence, requesting, resort, district court, sovereign, pre-trial, letters, declaration, sovereignty, civil-law, discovery request, foreign state, territory, commercial matters, authorizes, discovery order, interrogatories, negotiations, cooperation, proceedings, signatory

Civil Procedure, Discovery, Methods of Discovery, Foreign Discovery, Discovery & Disclosure, General Overview, International Law, Treaty Interpretation, Dispute Resolution, Tribunals, Evidence, Assistance Obtaining Evidence, Eminent Domain Proceedings, Commissioners, Appointments, Intent, History & Practical Construction, Particular Treaties, Hague Convention, Treaty Formation, Business & Corporate Compliance, Acceptance, Apparent Acceptance, Contracts Law, Remedies, Ratification, Individuals & Sovereign States, Governments, Courts, Judicial Comity, Comity Doctrine, Immigration Law, Types of US Citizenship, Judicial Review, Inspection & Production Requests, Requests for Admissions, Responses to Requests for Admissions, Undue Burdens in Discovery, Protective Orders