Foley Hoag Obtains Victory for Tanzania, Opposing Enforcement of $120M Foreign Judgment

April 1, 2019

On March 31, 2019 the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the motion to dismiss that Foley Hoag brought on behalf of its client, the United Republic of Tanzania, in Valambhia, et al. v United Republic of Tanzania, et al. (No. 18-cv-370 (TSC)).

The case was initiated in February 2018 by the widow and children of the late Devram Valambhia, who sought recognition of a money judgment obtained in Tanzanian courts. The Tanzanian judgment at issue was the result of a long, highly-publicized series of court cases that lasted over fourteen years and was dubbed in the Tanzanian media as “the most expensive legal suit in Dar’s history.” Including interests and costs, Valambhia’s decedents sought nearly $120 million.

Tanzania moved to dismiss plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint in June 2018, arguing that none of the exceptions to its sovereign immunity provided in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) applied to plaintiffs’ recognition action. Plaintiffs argued that because the Tanzanian judgments at issue grew out of a contract dispute, their case was sufficiently based on a commercial activity to deprive Tanzania of its sovereign immunity.

In its March 31, 2019 Memorandum Opinion, the Court rejected plaintiffs’ argument and agreed with Tanzania. It reasoned that although the Tanzanian judgments ultimately grew out of a commercial activity, plaintiffs’ recognition action was not “based upon” that activity as the FSIA requires.

Foley Hoag partners Lawrence Martin and Clara Brillembourg led the team defending Tanzania, with the assistance of associate Nicholas Renzler.

“The court recognized that this decision means that no foreign judgment can be enforced against foreign sovereigns via the FSIA’s commercial activities exception in DC courts – which is an important outcome in this and future cases,” Brillembourg said.

Foley Hoag specializes in representing sovereign States, and their entities and officials, in disputes before U.S courts. Chambers Global recently reported: “Foley Hoag LLP stands out because of its high level of competence and admirable record of cases handled and won.”

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