Foley Hoag Secures Victory for Republic of Bulgaria

Court Rules Alleged Negligence and Personal Injuries Do Not Overcome Bulgaria's Sovereign Immunity

June 1, 2017

Foley Hoag LLP has secured a victory for the Republic of Bulgaria as a New York federal court has dismissed a complaint alleging that the nation's UN Mission negligently caused a New York resident's injuries.

Judge John F. Keenan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the allegations by plaintiff Edward Newman against Bulgaria did not constitute negligence for purposes of the tortious activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).

The plaintiff, Edward Newman, alleged that he tripped and fell over an auxiliary pole lying on the sidewalk in front of a building housing Bulgarian diplomatic personnel, and that he sustained injuries. Newman asserted jurisdiction under both the tortious activity exception and the commercial activity exception of the FSIA. Bulgaria removed the case from state to federal court and moved to dismiss the complaint. Bulgaria argued that the court lacked subject matter and personal jurisdiction under the FSIA. Bulgaria’s arguments included that the use of its embassy and diplomatic residences did not constitute commercial activity under the FSIA and that the plaintiff failed to meet his burden to establish negligence. The plaintiff subsequently dropped his reliance on the commercial activity exception.

The court granted Bulgaria’s motion, ruling that Bulgaria neither created, nor had any actual notice or awareness of, any defect caused by the fallen auxiliary pole at the time of the incident.

Because the plaintiff failed to satisfy the criteria for a negligence claim, Bulgaria's immunity remained intact. Accordingly, the court dismissed the case in its entirety.

Bulgaria was represented by Christina Hioureas, chair of Foley Hoag’s United Nations practice group, and associates Tracy Roosevelt and Benjamin Guthrie.

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