United States District Judge Marcia Cooke said in the order, “Defendant HCU filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint, which I converted into a motion for summary judgment, requesting that this Court abstain from the exercise of its jurisdiction based on the doctrine of international comity. A liquidator has been appointed to handle the assets of the bank, according to the ruling, under Co-operative Societies Act of the Laws of Trinidad of Tobago.”
The plaintiff argued that the Court should retain jurisdiction over the case because the liquidation proceedings in Trinidad “are not fair and are biased against it as a non-Trinidadian entity and that they should not be found to be fair for purposes of any comity analysis.” He also argued that HCU’s liquidator should be required to seek recognition under Chapter 15 of the Bankruptcy Code before seeking a stay or dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims. Ultimately, the Court sided with HCU.
According to Goldman, the Judge pointed to concurrent liquidation proceedings in Trinidad as the basis of not hearing this case in Federal Court and instead deferring to the bank’s native country to resolve the dispute.
“This case is also one of just a handful of reported decisions in South Florida involving abstention under international comity and could have far-reaching implications for foreign companies doing business in the United States,” he said.
“A court must analyze the relative strengths of the two countries’ interests when determining whether abstention is proper,” wrote Judge Cooke. “Significantly, in this case the following facts are undisputed: there is a pending parallel bankruptcy proceeding in Trindad and Tobago that will resolve the Plaintiff’s dispute; the bankruptcy proceedings began before this action was filed…”
“The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has a strong interest in winding up the affairs of its domestic business entity, HCU. The bankruptcy proceeding in Trinidad and Tobago would permit HCU’s assets to be dispersed in an equitable, orderly, and systematic manner, without interference from a possibly inconsistent judgment from this Court. Here, the relative strength of the foreign government’s interests weigh in favor of abstention.”
The challenging economy is affecting foreign companies doing business in the United States as well as domestic businesses,”
# # #
Broad and Cassel offers full-service legal representation for individuals, public entities and private enterprises — from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Founded in 1946, we have eight office locations throughout Florida to serve your legal needs.