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Jam v. International Finance Corporation

139 S. Ct. 759 (2019)

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Jam v. International Finance Corporation

United States Supreme Court

139 S. Ct. 759 (2019)

Facts

The International Organizations Immunities Act of 1945 (IOIA) granted international organizations such as the World Bank and World Health Organization the same immunity from suit as had by foreign governments. When the IOIA was enacted, foreign governments enjoyed virtual immunity from suit. This immunity has been limited since the enactment. For example, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) provided that foreign governments were no longer immune from actions based on certain kinds of commercial activity. International Finance Corporation (IFC) (defendant) was a designated international organization under the IOIA. IFC had loaned money to a company in India to construct a coal-fired power plant in the state of Gujarat. The company had agreed to comply with an environmental and social action plan but had failed to do so. In 2015, a group of farmers and fishermen who lived near the Gujarat plant (plaintiffs) filed suit against IFC in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming that pollution from the plant contaminated the surrounding air, land, and water. IFC argued that it was immune from suit under the IOIA and moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. IFC contended that the IOIA granted international organizations the same immunity from suit that foreign governments enjoyed in 1945. The farmers and fishermen argued that the IOIA granted IFC the same immunity from suit that foreign governments enjoy today. The district court agreed with IFC and dismissed the case, concluding that IFC was immune from suit because the IOIA granted international organizations the virtually absolute immunity that foreign governments enjoyed when the IOIA was enacted. The farmers and fishermen appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Roberts, C.J.)

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