Legal Translation Services for Litigation Involving Chinese Corporations
Services of experienced Mandarin Chinese legal depo interpreters and top-notch English to Chinese legal translators are often required for complex litigation matters involving foreign entities. In the case below, plaintiffs in various states filed suit after they suffered property damage and personal injuries as a result of Chinese-manufactured drywall, resulting in complex, multi-jurisdictional lawsuits. Due to translation disputes and other problems, the attorneys had to travel to Hong Kong twice –along with the judge – in order to obtain suitable deposition transcripts for arguing jurisdictional issues.
Background on Chinese Drywall Products Liability Litigation.
After hurricanes Rita and Katrina, a housing boom ensued in Florida which led to a shortage of construction materials. Accordingly, drywall manufactured in China was imported and used to help reconstruct and rebuild homes in the coastal areas. After the drywall was installed, many homeowners suffered various illnesses that were believed to have resulted from the Chinese drywall. In addition, the homeowners complained of smelly gasses, the corrosion of metal wiring and surfaces, and the malfunctioning appliances and electrical devices.
The homeowners began filing lawsuits in various states against the manufacturers and affiliates of the Chinese drywall suppliers. Due to the commonality of the issues in dispute, the cases were consolidated into one multidisciplinary federal court action in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Two Groups of Foreign Defendants.
The allegedly harmful drywall was manufactured by two groups of defendants. One group was a German based manufacturer of building products such as drywall whose Chinese subsidiary advertised and sold drywall products in the United States. The German group entered into a remediation program and, eventually, a global class action settlement agreement to resolve all of the drywall claims.
The other group of defendants was comprised of several Chinese entities. This Chinese group of defendants pursued a defense of the litigation and did not settle like the German group.
Mandarin Chinese Depo Interpreter Services During Depositions in Hong Kong.
A dispute arose as to whether the court had personal jurisdiction over the defendants and the court allowed the parties to conduct discovery on this issue. Accordingly, thirteen attorneys traveled to Hong Kong to depose three Mandarin Chinese-speaking witnesses from the Chinese group of defendants. After returning to the United States, the plaintiffs sought to conduct a second round of depositions against these defendants due to a number of problems that occurred during their depositions in Hong Kong.
Court Allows Additional Depositions in Hong Kong.
In considering whether to allow additional depositions in Hong Kong, the court reviewed the parties’ deposition transcripts. The court concluded that the “depositions were ineffective because of disagreement between interpreters, counsel, and witnesses, translation difficulties, speaking objections, colloquy among counsel and deposition interpreters, and in general ensuing chaos.” Accordingly, the Court ordered the parties to schedule a second round of depositions, but this time with knowledgeable and prepared witnesses, a single Mandarin Chinese deposition interpreter, and Court supervision.
Interestingly, the judge traveled with the parties to Hong Kong to attend the depositions. Because the court was present for the depositions, the depositions went much more smoothly.
Court Rules it Has Personal Jurisdiction Over Chinese Defendants.
After the second round of depositions, the Chinese defendants filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court issued an order denying the motion to dismiss, stating that it did have personal jurisdiction over the defendants. The defendants appealed, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision regarding personal jurisdiction.
Court Holds One of the Chinese Defendants in Contempt of Court.
The court subsequently ordered one of the Chinese defendants, Taishan, to appear in court to be examined as a judgment debtor. When Taishan failed to appear, the court ordered Taishan to pay penalties and attorneys’ fees and enjoined it from transacting any business in the United States until it cooperated with the judicial process. Taishan eventually filed an appearance and paid the outstanding fees. The court then ordered Taishan and a subset of the Chinese defendants to conduct discovery on whether the relationship between Taishan and another group of defendants involved an affiliate and/or alter ego status.
Court Dismisses Subset of Chinese Defendants.
After the court-ordered discovery, the court granted one of the Chinese defendants’ motion to dismiss on the grounds that it was an “agent or instrumentality of a foreign state.” Thus, according to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), it was outside of the jurisdiction of the court. The court also held that the tortious activity exception to the FSIA did not apply because the allegedly tortious activity did not occur within the United States. Likewise, the court held that the commercial activity exception did not apply to this defendant because it did not manufacture, sell, or market drywall in the United States.
Court Grants in Part and Denies in Part Other Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.
After the court dismissed one of the Chinese defendants, another group of Chinese defendants filed motions to dismiss seeking to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and insufficient service of process. In analyzing the matter, the court held that it had jurisdiction over this group of Chinese defendants in some states, but not in other states, based on this defendant’s contacts with each of the affected states. Thus, the court granted this particular defendant’s motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part.
Mandarin Chinese Legal Interpreters and Chinese Law Document Translators at Your Service
As evidenced above, a variety of difficulties can ensue when taking depositions of foreign witnesses in Hong Kong and other international venues. Attorneys should be mindful of the challenges of foreign depositions and utilize only experienced, certified legal interpreters for complex litigation matters. Failure to carefully plan for and anticipate the challenges of foreign depositions can result in costly and prolonged discovery, as in the case above.
All Language Alliance, Inc. supplies experienced Mandarin Chinese depo interpreters, Cantonese deposition interpreters, and delivers certified legal document translation services from English to Simplified Chinese and from English to Traditional Chinese for China litigation.
The case is In Re: Chinese-Manufactured Drywall Products Liability Litigation, Civil Action No. 09-02047 decided on April 27, 2017 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
**This legal translations blog article should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.