Simon v. Republic of Hungary

812 F.3d 127 (2016)

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Simon v. Republic of Hungary

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
812 F.3d 127 (2016)

  • Written by Sharon Feldman, JD

Facts

From March 1944 to January 1945, Hungarian Jews were forced into ghettos, deprived of property, transported by railroad to death camps, and murdered. Fourteen survivors (the survivors) (plaintiffs) sued Hungary, its railroad Magyar Államvastuak Zrt. (MÁV), and Rail Cargo Hungaria Zrt., which acquired MÁV’s freight division (collectively, Hungarian entities) (defendants), alleging that Hungary collaborated with the Nazis to exterminate Hungarian Jews, and the railways transported the Jews to death camps and confiscated their property. The survivors’ claims included conversion, unjust enrichment, restitution, false imprisonment, torture, and assault. The district court dismissed the action, holding that the Hungarian entities were immune from suit under the 1947 peace treaty in which Hungary agreed to return or compensate survivors for expropriated property within six months and give any unclaimed property to Holocaust-relief organizations. The survivors appealed, arguing that the court had jurisdiction under the expropriation exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA), which gave US courts jurisdiction over claims involving property taken by a foreign state in violation of international law if the expropriated property or its proceeds were present in the US in connection with commercial activity the foreign state carried on in the US or owned by an agency of the foreign state engaged in a commercial activity in the US. The survivors alleged that their confiscated property was liquidated and used to fund governmental and commercial operations and that MÁV maintained a ticket-and-reservation agency in the US. The Hungarian entities argued that not all claims implicated property rights, the expropriations were not international-law violations, the commercial-activity-nexus requirement was not satisfied, and the survivors failed to exhaust available Hungarian remedies.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Srinivasan, J.)

Concurrence (Henderson, J.)

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