The World in U.S. Courts: Fall 2015 - Alien Tort Statute (ATS)/Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA)
Plaintiff Abdel-Karim flew to Cairo on EgyptAir Airlines and, upon arrival, was arrested and detained for having "weapon-like items" in his checked luggage. He sued the airline and its holding company, EHC, both owned by the Arab Republic of Egypt, under numerous theories, claiming their errors were responsible for his arrest. EHC moved to dismiss the case on FSIA grounds.
EHC moved for summary judgment on grounds that the claims at issue were barred by the FSIA, and that personal jurisdiction could not otherwise be obtained over them.
The District Court in New York first considered whether the case could proceed under the "commercial activity" exception to the FSIA, which allows claims against sovereigns that are "based upon" acts undertaken in connection with "a regular course of commercial conduct or a particular commercial transaction or act." Because EgyptAir and EHC were independent entities, the applicability of the exception had to be considered with respect to the activities of EHC specifically. In doing so, the Court found "commercial activity," principally through EHC's (1) contracting with United Airlines for services, (2) ownership of its subsidiary, EgyptAir, which was licensed to fly in the U.S., and (3) secondment of employees to EgyptAir. But because the claims under review were not "based upon" the "commercial activity" of EHC specifically, the Court found the FSIA exception inapplicable. Without subject matter or personal jurisdiction over EHC, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of EHC.