California Court Rules that Lawsuits Regarding the Outing of Gay Saudis on Lufthansa Airlines in Saudi Arabia Cannot Proceed


You can also find out more about us on our website. Doe v. Deutsche Lufthansa AGJudge Susan Illston of the North Dakota District Court ruled on Friday. Cal.):

John Doe and Robert Roe have been in a “committed” but “discreet” relationship for 33 year and were married in California in 2013 Doe is an American citizen and California resident. He lives in Riyadh Saudi Arabia for most of the year where he works as a legal adviser for a company. Roe, a Saudi Arabian national, lived in Riyadh full-time until May 2021 and worked as an estate agent. [real estate? -EV] investor. Since 1989 Doe and Roe have been living together in Saudi Arabia. But they had to keep their relationship secret and their sexual orientation hidden, because homosexuality in Saudi Arabia is a capital crime. “They lived very carefully and successfully kept their 33-year romance a secret, from the government, strangers. employers, friends and family alike.”

In 2021, Doe & Roe flew on Lufthansa between Riyadh and San Francisco. Doe and Roe were forced to tell a senior Lufthansa staffer at Riydah Airport, for complicated reasons relating to U.S. travel rules related to COVID, that they were legally married under U.S. laws. The employee then allegedly announced this publicly. They also allege that information about their marriage was passed to Saudi authorities. As a result

Roe hasn’t been back to Saudi Arabia after the flight of May 25, 2021 for fear of the harsh penalties that Saudi citizens face for being homosexual. “The most lenient penalty is the revocation or his passport, and the inability to ever leave Saudi Arabia. Other punishments include harassment of Roe’s family, imprisonment, and the risk of death because of Roe’s sexual orientation and his relationship with Roe.” Doe asked senior officials at the United States Embassy if Roe could return to Saudi Arabia safely. They all “unanimously” agreed that Roe’s safety would not be guaranteed if he returned. Roe had to obtain a visa quickly and at a high cost in order to remain legally in the United States, rather than return to Saudi Arabia. Roe received his provisional green card in January 2023 for permanent residency in the United States. He hopes to become an American citizen in order to remain indefinitely.

Roe and Doe are living in constant uncertainty about whether Roe can remain in the United States, or if he must leave and move elsewhere. Since leaving Saudi Arabia Roe hasn’t seen his family who live in Saudi Arabia. Doe is a U.S. Citizen and can return to Saudi Arabia for work with less risk. Doe is still concerned that his sexuality and marital status could cost him his job and result in public shame and a possible permanent deportation. …

The court, however, concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over Lufthansa. Though Lufthansa conducts business in California the court concluded that plaintiffs “have failed to show that [their] claims arise from or relate to defendants’ activities in California.

In the case of Lufthansa AG virtually all conduct that led to or was related to plaintiffs claims took place in Saudi Arabia. Plaintiffs were living in Saudi Arabia at the time of the events. They booked their flight from Saudi Arabia. Roe, a Californian citizen, was forced to move permanently to California because of Lufthansa. However, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the fact that a forum resident experiences harm in a forum state, on its own, is not enough – there must be some conduct on the part of the defendant in the forum state that is connected to the plaintiff’s claims to satisfy the minimum contacts analysis….

Similarly, the fact that plaintiffs were flying from Riyadh to San Francisco is not enough to create the type of relationship between plaintiffs’ claims and California sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction…. [P]Plaintiffs do not claim that Lufthansa AG has done anything in California other than fail to mitigate the harm Jamshed caused them in Saudi Arabia by revealing their private information. In light of the Supreme Court’s caution, the Court is not persuaded by the claim that the fact San Francisco was the final destination of plaintiffs’ flight is enough to link the conduct in Saudi Arabia with California. Ford Motor Company“The phrase’relate to,’ incorporates real limitations.”

The court ruled that the decision was made in any event. The exercise of jurisdiction in this case would be unreasonable.

The Ninth Circuit has warned that “[o]Analysis of minimum contacts has a number of goals. [under the Due Process Clause] The purpose of the law is “to ensure that States, through their courts do not reach beyond the limitations imposed on them by the status they hold as coequal sovereignty in a federal structure.'” This case has “foreign-policy overtones” as plaintiffs claim the Saudi Arabian government discovered their marital status by covertly monitoring Lufthansa’s email and/or using an informant system. The Court will also have to interpret European and German privacy laws, including the EU General Data Protection Regulation and the German Federal Data Protection Act, if plaintiffs claims are not preempted. In addition, the Court would be required to evaluate, under a choice-of-law analysis, whether plaintiffs could proceed under California law, and if they could, the Court would be required to apply California law regarding public disclosure of private facts and what constitutes “outrageous” behavior to conduct that occurred in Saudi Arabia, a society with very different societal and cultural norms….

[D]It would be a shame if Icovery was not available. [also] It would be extremely complex, as plaintiffs will have to prove that there is a causal connection between the Saudi Arabian government changing Doe’s marital status from “single”, to “married”. There would also be some discovery in Germany concerning Lufthansa AG privacy and data policies.

The Court finds it difficult to accept the plaintiffs’ claim that California is their only option for pursuing their claims. Even if the allegations in the complaint are true, they are problematic. However, in light of all of the foregoing, the Court concludes that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over defendants and that the exercise of jurisdiction would be unreasonable….

In principle, personal jurisdiction is different from choice of law. So, even if the court found that it had jurisdiction to deal with this conduct by Lufthansa, it could have decided that Saudi law would apply to the conduct in Saudi Arabia.


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