June 2020 - international litigation blog
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June 2020

Belgian Court Confirms Arbitrability of Exclusive Distribution Agreements Governed by Foreign Law

On 19 May 2020, the Leuven (Belgium) Enterprise Court (the Leuven Court) ruled that, following the reform of the Belgian arbitration rules in 2013, arbitration clauses in exclusive distribution agreements were valid, even if these agreements were governed by foreign law (judgment of 19 May 2020 in case A/20/00034, Akron NV v. Amphenol (Maryland) Inc.).

The judgment was given in the context of a dispute between a U.S. supplier and its former Belgian distributor following the supplier’s decision to unilaterally terminate the distributor’s distribution agreement dated 1 April 2018 for serious misconduct. While the distribution agreement contained an arbitration clause pursuant to which any dispute had to be settled by arbitration proceedings in the USA in accordance with the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association, the distributor initiated proceedings before the Leuven Court and claimed damages based on Title 3 of Book X of the Code of Economic Law (CEL), i.e., the Belgian mandatory rules on the unilateral termination of exclusive or quasi-exclusive distribution agreements of indefinite duration.READ MORE


U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Retroactivity of New FSIA Cause of Action

On 18 May 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court (the Supreme Court) handed down its decision in Opati v. Republic of Sudan. It ruled that a new cause of action added in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (the FSIA), which allowed plaintiffs to seek punitive damages from foreign governments who sponsor terrorist activities, could be applied retroactively.

The case at hand relates to the 1998 Al Qaeda bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and in Tanzania.

Following these terrorist attacks, several victims sued the Sudanese government in U.S. courts claiming damages, as Sudan had allegedly supported and protected Al Qaeda.

The plaintiffs relied on an exception to the FSIA’s general rule that foreign governments enjoy immunity and cannot, in principle, be brought before U.S. courts. According to that exception, the immunity enjoyed by foreign governments does not apply to acts of terrorism and to States that sponsored such terrorist activities. However, at the time, this exception did not allow plaintiffs to seek punitive damages.READ MORE