Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, et al., v. Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co., et al.

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Sovereign Immunity
  • Date Filed: May 1, 2017
  • Case #: No. 15–423
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except GORSUCH, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
  • Full Text Opinion

Any claim brought forward under the expropriation exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA) now requires a heightened argument standard when attempting to establish ownership rights.

Petitioner’s country is where a subsidiary of an American oil company is located. In 2010, Petitioner’s government failed to pay the subsidiary. Subsequently, Petitioner then sent troops to the yard where the company held its rigs, stopped the company from exporting anything, and then nationalized the rigs through an expropriation decree. The president of the American company stated that the subsidiary was an “American company” with “foreign gentlemen investors.” Petitioner asked the district court to dismiss the case on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction because of its sovereign immunity and the court’s lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Petitioner argued that under an expropriation exception, international law does not cover those properties that were owned by their own nationals. The court found that the exception did not apply in this instance. Both parties then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which reversed in part and affirmed in part and, ultimately, concluded that both parties fell within the exception because the expropriation exception grants jurisdiction when there is a legally valid claim that a property right was taken in violation of international law. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari and vacated and remanded the decision. The Court determined that the expropriation exception would only apply if the facts show that the property was taken in violation of international law. VACATED and REMANDED. 


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