Embassy Law Web Log   
Washington, DC, USA      

China Not Liable for Damages from Terrorism

On January 14, 2010, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the complaint in the matter of Zhenxing v. The Government of the People's Republic of China, docket no. 08-2228 because the plaintiff failed to meet the minimum requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, FRCP.

In addition to the premature filing of the original complaint, the court stated that the pro se plaintiff had filed a complaint so unclear that it utterly fail[ed] to give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47-48 (1957). While the court noted that the standards to which pro se litigants are held are often more lenient than those for attorneys, it ruled that in this case, even those standards had not been met.

Aside from the ambiguity of the complaint itself, the court stated that the plaintiff's attempt to sue China under the U.S. Code which designates civil remedies for American victims of international terrorism, 18 U.S.C. §2333(a), did not apply to foreign states as was clearly stated in 18 U.S.C. § 2337(2), see also Lawton v. Republic of Iraq, 581 F. Supp. 2d 43, 46 (D.D.C. 2008).

Under federal law in the United States, the jurisdictional basis for a victim of international terrorism against a foreign state is the State Sponsored Terrorism Exception to the FSIA. Had the plaintiff in this case met the minimum requirement of Rule 8 of the FRCP, the case may still have been dismissed since the People's Republic of China is not currently designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. -- Laura P. Valle, Legal Assistant, Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, LLP.