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Injured in Europe, Can You Sue in the United States?

Injured in Europe, Can You Sue in the United States?

As a Los Angeles accident lawyer, I try to stay apprised of developments in personal injury law that could affect my cases.

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued an important ruling in a tragic case.

Carol Sachs, a resident of California, was injured in Innsbruck, Austria while trying to board a train operated by the Austrian government.  She lost her balance, fell off the train platform, and was crushed by the moving train.  Both her legs were amputated.

Ms. Sachs sued the Austrian government in federal court in Northern California, where she resides.  The Austrian government moved to dismiss the case, arguing that American courts do not have jurisdiction over European defendants under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act prevents American courts from hearing cases involving foreign governments, unless limited exceptions apply.  One such exception is when the foreign government engages in commercial activities in the United States.

Ms. Sachs argued that since she purchased her Austrian train ticket online through an American travel agency, her negligence case against the Austrian train corporation could be litigated in American courts because of the Austrian company’s commercial activity in the U.S.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed in a unanimous, 9-0 ruling.

The Court provided a lengthly analysis.  Ultimately, the Court reasoned that Ms. Sachs’ negligence case against the Austrian train company was based upon the tragic events where she lost her legs, not the commercial activity of purchasing her tickets online from an American travel agency.

This is not the first time the Austrian government has had this issue litigated in American courts.

My good friend and President of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Randy Schoenberg, represented Holocaust survivor Maria Altmann in the early 2000s.  Randy successfully took on the Austrian government to recover his client’s looted artwork.  The case is depicted in the recent Hollywood blockbuster, Woman in Gold.

The Austrian government was not as lucky in that case, which you can read about here.

For questions about your Los Angeles accident case, the Rabbi Lawyer is available, 24-6!