The United States Supreme Court recently handed down a decision reversing a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and dismissed a case that was filed after an American woman fell from a train platform and was seriously injured while traveling in Innsbruck, Austria. The woman’s legs were crushed by a moving train after she fell onto the tracks while attempting to board, and both legs had to be amputated. After the accident, she filed a negligence lawsuit against the company that operated the train and station involved in the accident, which was an agency of the Austrian government.
The Defendants Claim Sovereign Immunity
The complaint was filed in a United States district court and claimed jurisdiction over the Austrian defendants because the ‘Eurorail’ train pass that the plaintiff was using had been marketed and sold to the plaintiff in the United States. The defendants moved to dismiss the case, claiming that foreign governments and the agencies they run are immune from suit under federal law. The district court agreed, finding that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act shielded the defendants from suit in United States courts and ultimately dismissing the case. The plaintiff had argued that an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act should apply to this case and appealed the district court ruling to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
The Commercial Activity Exception
On appeal, the plaintiff argued the Austrian government was not immune to suit because they had been engaging in commercial activity in the United States by selling a rail pass through U.S. travel agencies. In a close decision, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the plaintiff in the appeal, ruling that the claim was based upon the commercial transaction between the plaintiff and the Austrian government when she bought the rail pass. The defendants appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, who sided with the Austrian government and dismissed the case.
The Supreme Court ruled that the claim was based upon the events in Austria surrounding the injury, and the defendant’s participation in the sale of ‘Eurorail’ passes to American tourists traveling in Europe is not sufficient to meet the commercial activity exception to the law. As a result of the most recent ruling, the plaintiff will not receive compensation from the claim.
Should You Contact an Attorney?
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed while traveling, it can be possible to get compensated for your injuries by filing an Illinois personal injury lawsuit against the party whose negligence contributed to the injuries. Although suing a foreign government or state agency is difficult, it is possible to collect damages from defendants for injuries or deaths that occur outside the United States. The Illinois personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the Cavanagh Sorich Law Group know where to find relief, and we have the experience necessary to make the most of your claim. Our Chicago accident lawyers represent victims in most personal injury and wrongful death cases, including train and premises liability accidents.