Justia U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in International Trade
Dimond Rigging Co. v. BDP International, Inc.
Dimond was hired by a Chinese manufacturer to “rig, dismantle, wash, and pack,” and ship used automotive assembly-line equipment to China. Dimond, which lacked experience in international shipment, hired BDP. Dimond asserted that BDP did not disclose that it was not a licensed Ocean Transport Intermediary by the Federal Maritime Commission. In May 2011, BDP informed Dimond that it had obtained a ship and sent a booking note to Dimond. Between May and October 2011, Dimond dismantled and weighed the equipment and prepared a “preliminary" packing list. BDP allegedly provided the preliminary packing list when it obtained quotes from third-party contractors to load the Equipment. In October 2011, BDP notified Dimond that the ship was no longer available. Dimond asserted that BDP “without Dimond’s knowledge, consent or approval” hired Logitrans to perform BDP’s freight forwarding duties. BDP and Logitrans hired a ship. As a result of many ensuing difficulties, Dimond became involved in multiple lawsuits, including suits with its Chinese customer and the stevedores. Dimond sued BDP in July 2013 but never served BDP with the complaint. When the summons expired, the district court dismissed without prejudice. In August 2017, Dimond filed a Motion to Amend and Praecipe for Issuance of Amended Summons for its 2013 suit. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. The suit was not timely filed within the one-year statute of limitations set forth in the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act. View "Dimond Rigging Co. v. BDP International, Inc." on Justia Law
Hemlock Semiconductor Operations, LLC v. SolarWorld Industries Sachsen GMBH
Hemlock and Sachsen manufacture components of solar-power products. They entered into a series of long-term supply agreements (LTAs), by which Hemlock in Michigan would supply Sachsen in Germany with set quantities of polycrystalline silicon (polysilicon) at fixed prices from 2006-2019. The market price of polysilicon was initially well above the LTA price, but the market price plummeted after the Chinese government began subsidizing its national production of polysilicon. The parties reached a temporary agreement to lower the LTA price in 2011. When that agreement expired, Hemlock demanded that Sachsen pay the original LTA price for 2012. Sachsen refused. Hemlock sued for breach of contract. The district court granted Hemlock summary judgment and awarded nearly $800 million in damages and prejudgment interest. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court: properly struck Sachsen’s antitrust defense because enforcing the take-or-pay provision does not require the parties to engage in the precise conduct that is allegedly unlawful; properly struck Sachsen’s defense that the LTAs illegally tied Sachsen’s predominant demand for polysilicon to a single seller in violation of E.U. antitrust law; properly concluded that Sachsen’s affirmative defenses of commercial impracticability and frustration of purpose lack merit; and properly awarded the full amount of the remaining contract price as liquidated damages, despite Sachsen’s argument that the award was an unreasonable penalty. View "Hemlock Semiconductor Operations, LLC v. SolarWorld Industries Sachsen GMBH" on Justia Law
Energy Conversion Devices Liquidation Trust v. Trina Solar Ltd.
The defendant companies, based in China, produce conventional solar energy panels. Energy Conversion and other American manufacturers produce the newer thin-film panels. The Chinese producers sought greater market shares. They agreed to export more products to the U.S. and to sell them below cost. Several entities supported their endeavor. Suppliers provided discounts, a trade association facilitated cooperation, and the Chinese government provided below-cost financing. From 2008-2011, the average selling prices of their panels fell over 60%. American manufacturers consulted the Department of Commerce, which found that the Chinese firms had harmed American industry through illegal dumping and assessed substantial tariffs. The American manufacturers continued to suffer; more than 20 , including Energy Conversion, filed for bankruptcy or closed. Energy Conversion sued under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, and Michigan law, seeking $3 billion in treble damages, claiming that the Chinese companies had unlawfully conspired “to sell Chinese manufactured solar panels at unreasonably low or below cost prices . . . to destroy an American industry.” Because this allegation did not state that the Chinese companies could or would recoup their losses by charging monopoly prices after driving competitors from the field, the court dismissed the claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Without such an allegation or any willingness to prove a reasonable prospect of recoupment, the court correctly rejected the claim. View "Energy Conversion Devices Liquidation Trust v. Trina Solar Ltd." on Justia Law
Rote v. Zel Custom Mfg., LLC
A guest at Ohio social gathering, Grimm, brought a rifle and ammunition to the Sunbury house, where he assembled and invited guests to shoot. At Grimm's direction, Rote loaded the rifle; before the bolt moved into a closed-and-secured position, the round exploded and a “loud sound” was heard. Rote sustained severe damage to his right hand. The round that exploded came from a box bearing marks identifying it as being manufactured by DGFM. The allegedly defective ammunition was purchased online through a New Jersey-based company. Rote and his wife filed a negligence and products-liability suit against several defendants, including DGFM. DGFM argued that, as an instrumentality of the Republic of Argentina, it is immune from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602. The district court denied its motion to dismiss, finding that the “commercial activity” exception to the Act applies. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that the design and manufacture of a product constitutes a “commercial activity” under the FSIA and that a court need not find that a foreign state has minimum contacts with the United States in order to conclude that the state’s acts have a direct effect here. View "Rote v. Zel Custom Mfg., LLC" on Justia Law
Superior Prod. P’shp v. Gordon Auto Body Parts Co.
Gordon Auto Body Parts, a Taiwanese company, was one of several early entrants into the U.S. market for replacement truck hoods. PBSI eventually entered the market for certain replacement hoods but found that it could not match the prices of Gordon and other Taiwanese firms, with which Gordon had participated in joint ventures. Believing that Gordon and the other firms were conspiring to drive it out of business with predatory prices, PBSI brought antitrust claims against Gordon. The district court granted Gordon summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that PBSI failed to make any showing that Gordon’s prices were below an appropriate measure of cost. View "Superior Prod. P'shp v. Gordon Auto Body Parts Co." on Justia Law
CNA Ins. Co. v. Hyundai Merch. Marine Co., Ltd.
Corning hired Hyundai, an ocean shipper, to transport thin glass sheets for use in televisions and computer monitors from the U.S. to Asia. Although it is not clear when the damage occurred, damage was noted when Hyundai unloaded the containers from flatcars operated by its subcontractors (Norfolk Southern Railway and BNSF, another rail carrier). Corning had no role in selecting and no relationship with the subcontractors. There were opinions that the damage was caused by movement of the railcars, not by packing, but the actual cause was not established. Corning’s insurer paid Corning $664,679.88 and filed suit. The district court held that the case would proceed solely under the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. 11706, apparently reasoning that the damage undisputedly occurred while the cargo was in the possession of a rail carrier. The court found that a Subcontracting Clause did not immunize the rail carriers from suit, but obligated Corning to indemnify Hyundai for any resultant claims by a subcontractor against Hyundai arising out of the same facts. The court held that a $500-per-package limit of liability did not apply to the rail carriers or Hyundai. After a jury trial, the court found Hyundai and the railroads liable, but denied prejudgment interest. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment against Hyundai, reversed and vacated judgments against the railroads, and remanded for reconsideration of prejudgment interest.View "CNA Ins. Co. v. Hyundai Merch. Marine Co., Ltd." on Justia Law
Triple A Int’l, Inc. v. Democratic Republic of the Congo
Triple A, a Michigan corporation, has offices in Dearborn, Michigan, the Congo (previously known as Zaire), and Sierra Leone. In 1993, Zaire ordered military equipment worth $14,070,000 from Triple A. A South Korean manufacturer shipped the equipment to Zaire at Triple A’s request. For 17 years, Triple A sought payment from Zaire and then the Congo without success. In 2010, Triple A sued the Congo for breach of contract. The district court dismissed the case, citing lack of jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, citing the language of the Act, under which federal courts have jurisdiction “in any case in which the action is based upon” the following:  a commercial activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state; or  upon an act performed in the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere; or  upon an act outside the territory of the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere and that act causes a direct effect in the United States. View "Triple A Int'l, Inc. v. Democratic Republic of the Congo" on Justia Law
Commodities Exp. Co. v. Detroit Int’l Bridge Co.
In 2008 the Michigan Supreme Court held that the Detroit International Bridge Company was immune from the City of Detroit’s zoning ordinances because it was a federal instrumentality for the limited purpose of facilitating commerce over the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Ontario, Canada. The federal government was not a party to the suit. Commodities Export, which owned property near the Bridge, later filed suit against Detroit and the United States, claiming that the Bridge Company had unilaterally condemned roads around its property, cutting off the land and causing a regulatory taking. It claimed that Detroit was liable for failing to enforce its own ordinances and demanded that the United States take a position on the Bridge Company’s federal-instrumentality status and control the Company’s actions. The United States cross-claimed against Bridge Company, alleging that it had misappropriated the title of “federal instrumentality.” The district court granted summary judgment for the United States and dismissed the action. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that federal courts have jurisdiction over the government’s cross-claim and owe no deference to the Michigan Supreme Court’s interpretation of federal common law. Bridge Company is not a federal instrumentality. View "Commodities Exp. Co. v. Detroit Int'l Bridge Co." on Justia Law
Carrier Corp. v. Outokumpu Oyj
Plaintiffs are among the world’s largest purchasers of air conditioning and refrigeration copper tubing. Defendants imported ACR copper into the U.S. In 2003 the Commission of the European Communities found that defendants and other conspired on prices targets and other terms for industrial tubes and allocated customers and market shares in violation of European law. The findings did not identify any conspiratorial agreements with respect to U.S. markets. In 2004, another EC decision found violation in the market for plumbing tubes. Plaintiff claimed that the European conspiracy was also directed at the U.S. market for ACR industrial tubes, violating the Sherman Act and the Tennessee Trade Practices Act. Two similar cases, involving different plaintiffs, had been dismissed. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the complaint adequately stated a claim under the Sherman Act and was not barred by the Act's limitations period, 15 U.S.C. 15b and that the court had personal jurisdiction. The fact that the complaint borrows its substance from the EC decision and then builds on the EC’s findings does not render its allegations any less valid.
Conn v. Zakharov
Defendant, a Russian citizen, attended graduate school and owns real property, vehicles, and bank accounts in Ohio. He spends some time in Ohio each year, ranging from 40 days in 2007 to a total of 17 days in 2008–2009. He visits under a tourist visa and does not have an Ohio driver's license. After going to Russia to take part in a business venture with defendant, plaintiff filed suit in Ohio. The contract had no connection to the state. The trial court dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, noting that defendant was not served with process in a manner that automatically confers personal jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that notions of fair play and substantial justice weigh against jurisdiction in Ohio. The court quoted a Russian proverb, “If you’re afraid of wolves, don’t go into the forest” that could be read, “If you’re afraid of the Russian legal system, don't do business in Russia.”