Williams v. Shipping Corp. of India and Rex v. Cia. Pervana de Vapores, S.A.: The Seventh Amendment and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976

Adams, Barbara A. | January 1, 1983

Suits against foreign sovereigns and their agents or instrumentalities are being brought in increasing numbers by American citizens and businesses in the United States court to resolve legal disputes, both at the federal and state levels. Although formerly absolutely prohibited, suits against foreign sovereigns acting in various commercial and business capacities have been allowed in the United States since the 1940s. In response to both the multitude of foreign policy and legal problems, and the general confusion arising out of the attempts by the executive and judicial branches of government to decide whether foreign sovereign immunity should be granted in United States courts, Congress enacted the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FISA). The FISA codified what is commonly called the “restrictive” theory of foreign sovereign immunity, which allows American plaintiffs to bring suit against foreign sovereigns acting in a commercial or business capacity.