Antares Aircraft, L.P. v. Federal Republic of Nigeria
999 F.2d 33 (1993)
Antares (a US company) owned
an airplane and leased it to Gambian Air. Gambian air failed to pay its
bills. Not only did they not pay the lease on the plane, they also didn't
bother to pay the pilots.
The pilots sued Gambian Air in
Nigeria, and got the Nigerian court to attach the airplane to the lawsuit.
Nigerian authorities confiscated the plane until the pilots' lawsuit
could be settled.
Antares went to the Nigerian
court and argued that the plane didn't belong to Gambian Air, it belonged
to Antares. The Nigerian court released the plane so Antares could take
When Antares went to get their
plane, the Nigerian Airport Authority (NAA) said they couldn't have it
until they paid the parking and landing fees that Gambian Air owed.
Antares paid over $100k, but NAA still wouldn't release the airplane.
Antares sued NAA (who was
wholly owned by the Nigerian government) in US court.
Antares claimed that NAA was
engaged in extortion.
NAA argued that US courts
did not have jurisdiction to hear the case based on sovereign immunity.
Antares argued that the
claims were in relation to a commercial activity, and not a public act,
and were therefore not covered by sovereign immunity based on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities
Act of 1976 (FSIA) (28
FSIA says that foreign States can be sued in US
Courts for acts taken "in connection with a commercial
activity" that have "a direct effect in the US."
The Appellate Court found that
US Courts did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. Antares appealed.
The US Supreme Court vacated
the judgment and told the Appellate Court to hear the case again in light
of their recent decision in Republic of Argentina v. Weltover, Inc. (504 U.S. 607 (1992)).
In Weltover the US Supreme Court found that when a
foreign government is engaged in a commercial activity, they lose the
privilege of sovereign immunity.
The Appellate Court found for
the NAA and that US courts did not
have jurisdiction to hear the case.
The Appellate Court looked
to Weltover and agreed that this
was a commercial activity as defined by FSIA.
Is operating an airport a
commercial activity or a governmental responsibility? The Court found
it was a commercial activity.
Weltover defined commercial activity as when a State
acted as a private player within a market and not as a regulator of
However, the Court found that
there was no "direct effect in the US" from the activity and
therefore, it did not fall within the FSIA exception.
The activity was not
related to US commerce at all. The only connection was that the claim
threatened the financial wellbeing of a US-owned company. That was not
Basically, this case said that
the FSIA exception to sovereign
immunity is not extended to torts that have no relation to the
US other than the fact that a US citizen/company is the one that suffered