Tag Archives: Philippines

Case of the Day: Asignacion v. Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrts

The case of the day is Asignacion v. Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrts (E.D. La. 2014). Lito Martinez Asignacion, a Philippine national, was employed by Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrts as a seaman aboard the M/V Rickmers Dalian, a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel. There was a written employment contract, entered into by Rickmers and by the Philippine government through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. The contract contained an arbitration provision requiring arbitration of disputes in the Philippines, and it provided that claims arising out of Asignacion’s employment would be governed by Philippines law.
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Case of the Day: Sabeniano v. Citibank

The case of the day is Sabeniano v. Citibank N.A. New York (S.D.N.Y. 2013). Modesta Sabeniano, a Philippine national, had had several accounts with Citibank branches in Switzerland, New York, and the Philippines in the 1970s. In 1985, she sued Citibank in the a Philippine court, alleging that Citibank refused to pay her amounts it held in her account. Citibank’s answer asserted that it had made loans to Sabeniano and that it had offset the balance of the loans against the amounts on account after Sabeniano failed to make required payments. In 1995, the Philippine trial court entered a judgment in favor of Sabeniano, and the case was appealed ultimately to the Philippine Supreme Court. After appeals, Supreme Court issued a judgment in 2006, which became final in 2007. 1 Citibank deposited a check for approximately $400,000 with the court to satisfy the judgment, and the Philippine Supreme Court entered an order establishing that Citibank had satisfied the judgment.

In 2012, Sabeniano sued Citibank in New York. She alleged that in 2002, the Philippine Supreme Court had entered a judgment awarding her more than $13 million, and she sought recognition and enforcement. She claimed that she became aware of the judgment in March 2011—before the judgment was supposedly issued—and that she asked the Supreme Court to authenticate it. She submitted a certificate authenticating the judgment, but it was issued by the Philippine court of appeals, not the Supreme Court. Citibank asserted that the judgment was inauthentic and a forgery. It asked the Philippine Supreme Court to verify the judgment. The court issued a notice stating that it had not entered a decision on the date of the supposed 2002 judgment and ordered Sabeniano to show cause why she should not be cited for contempt of court.

The parties cross-moved for summary judgment. The key issue was the authenticity of the 2002 judgment. The judge properly denied Sabeniano’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that her evidence was not credible. This requires a little explanation. You can’t grant a summary judgment that relies on making determinations about which side’s evidence is more credible, since questions of fact are to be determined at trial. But it’s proper to deny a motion for summary judgment if the movant’s evidence seems incredible, a point I made in a discussion of one of Judge Kaplan’s decisions in the Lago Agrio case.

Citibank’s motion did not rest on the lack of credibility of the plaintiff’s evidence, and rightly so. It would have been improper, I think, for the court to decide, on summary judgment, that the judgment proffered by Sabeniano was inauthentic. Instead, Citibank argued that the 2006 judgment, which came years after the supposed 2002 judgment, should be recognized, and that once recognized, it was res judicata.

The judge found that the 2006 judgment was entitled to recognition under the UFMJRA. Not only did Sabeniano fail to make any arguments against recognition; she herself was seeking recognition for a Philippine judgment and thus could hardly argue, for example, that the Philippine courts were not impartial, etc. Once he recognized the judgment, the judge held, again apparently correctly, that the 2006 judgment was res judicata.

Notes:

  1. I make no effort to get the details of the Philippine procedure right.

Case of the Day: Royal Caribbean Cruises v. Jackson

The case of the day is Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. v. Jackson (S.D. Fla. 2013). Royal Caribbean sued for exoneration after Darren Jackson and Susan Moravec were injured parasailing while on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Jackson and Moravec filed a counterclaim and a third party complaint for negligence against Nino Abarquez and Ramon Musngi, two Royal Caribbean employees, alleging negligence.

Jackson and Moravec served process by mailing a copy of the documents to the Florida Secretary of State, who accepted service on their behalf and then sent the documents by certified mail to Royal Carribean’s office in Miami. Abarquez and Musngi were Philippine nationals who did not reside in Florida and who received the complaint by mail from Royal Caribbean in Labadee, Haiti. Jackson and Moravec also sent the documents to the defendant in care of Royal Caribbean by registered mail, return receipt requested. Royal Caribbean was not their authorized agent for service of process. According to Jackson and Moravec, Labadee is an “isolated enclave controlled by” Royal Caribbean “and which is closed to the public.” They claimed not to have access to the enclave and thus to have no way to serve Abarquez or Musngi. The judge rejected this interesting argument for reasons that are not really clear. If Jackson and Moravec’s claim is true, it poses an interesting problem, though one that the case leaves undecided.

The only basis for substituted service on the Secretary of State is a Florida statute, which is incorporated into federal law under FRCP 4(e)(1). But FRCP 4(e)(1) only applies to service “in a judicial district of the United States.” I think it was probably a mistake for the court even to consider whether the Florida statute permitted the service, because Abarquez and Musngi were abroad. But in any event, the judge held that the Florida statute did not apply for reasons of Florida law that are unimportant here.

The judge also rejected the service by registered mail, holding that Jackson and Moravec had failed to comply with FRCP 4(f)(2)(C)(ii) because the mail was addressed to Abarquez and Musngi’s employer rather than to them. This seems right, on the assumption that the employer is not the agent of the employees for service of process.

There is an easy answer to Jackson and Moravec’s problem …