Legal Topics


Procedures for an International Lawsuit

Litigation is common in the US, but not all legal disputes stay within a country's borders. Issues of fraud and libel can occur between the jurisdictions of different nations. It's possible to file an international lawsuit in such cases.

What is an International Lawsuit?

What separates an international lawsuit from a domestic suit is the setup to the court case. Matters like defining the defendant's jurisdiction, gathering evidence, delivering a subpoena, and enforcing a sentence take on a whole new meaning when they reach the international stage.

For example, most American and Canadian courts practice what is known as "long-arm jurisdiction," meaning that they can declare personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a different state or territory. However, other countries adopt the principle of "universal jurisdiction," regarding certain torts and crimes as being worthy of prosecution regardless of the defendant's nationality or homeland. Trying to reconcile these standards can make any legal proceeding difficult.

The International Court of Justice in the Hague has set down standards for legal disputes between parties from different countries. One state can send a "letter rogatory" or letter of request to another state, which allows for the delivery of a subpoena and a request for gathering evidence appropriate to the case. When gathering evidence, this can include obtaining documents related to the matter of a dispute or taking down testimony from foreign witnesses. In the US, a foreign court can apply for cooperation from domestic courts using a Section 1782 Discovery application.

How to File an International Lawsuit

If you wish to file an international lawsuit (over an issue like fraud or any other case of tort), you'll first need a lawyer with experience in international law. When meeting with a potential lawyer for this kind of suit, you should be able to discuss your chances of success and the validity of your claim.

Next comes the most crucial step in building your international case: gathering evidence. Make a note of every interaction you had with foreign nationals as it relates to your suit. Recall and record every detail. You may also find yourself subject to a letter rogatory or a Section 1782 Discovery, which will outline the evidence needed to support your case.

Finally, before you actually file your suit through your lawyer, do your research. Familiarize yourself with the UN's policies on international law and the appropriate Hague Conventions. Be proactive about studying the law and jurisdiction of other countries and learn as much as you can about the legal history of the country where the defendant resides and how well cases like yours have done in those regions.

Image by Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Flickr

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