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Georges v. United Nations

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 9, 2015

DELAMA GEORGES, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED NATIONS, et al., Defendants

For Delama Georges, individually and on behalf of the Estate of Desilus Georges and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff: Beatrice Lisa Young Lindstrom, Brian Eugene Concannon, Jr, Institute For Justice & Democracy In Haiti, Boston, MA; Ira Jay Kurzban, PRO HAC VICE, Kurzban Kurzban Weinger Tetzeli & Pratt, P.A., Miami, FL; Jeffrey Stephen Brand, University of San Francisco School of Law, San Francisco, CA.

For Alius Joseph, individually and on behalf of the Estate of Marie-Claude Lefeuve and all others similarly situated, Lisette Paul, individually and on behalf of the Estate of Fritznel Paul and all others similarly situated, Felicia Paule, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Felicia Paule, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs: Beatrice Lisa Young Lindstrom, Institute For Justice & Democracy In Haiti, Boston, MA; Ira Jay Kurzban, PRO HAC VICE, Kurzban Kurzban Weinger Tetzeli & Pratt, P.A., Miami, FL; Jeffrey Stephen Brand, University of San Francisco School of Law, San Francisco, CA.

For United States Of America, Miscellaneous: Jennifer Ellen Blain, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney Office, SDNY, New York, NY.

For European Law Scholars, Amicus: Joel Richard Kupferman, LEAD ATTORNEY, New York Environmental Law, New York, NY; Monica Visalam Iyer, PRO HAC VICE, Monica Visalam Iyer, Milano, MI.

For International Law Scholars and Practitioners, Amicus: Harvey Warren Spizz, LEAD ATTORNEY, Spizz & Cooper, LLP, Mineola, NY.

For Haitian Lawyers Association (HLA) c/o Fritznie Jarbath, Esq., President, Amicus: David Kwang Soo Kim, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of David K. S. Kim, P.C., Queens, NY.

For Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, Inc. (FANM)/Haitian Women of Miami, Amicus: David Kwang Soo Kim, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of David K. S. Kim, P.C., Queens, NY; Kertch J Conze, PRO HAC VICE, Law Offices of Kertch Conze, Pa, Miramar, FL.

OPINION AND ORDER

J. PAUL OEKTEN, United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs bring this class action diversity suit alleging various tort and contract claims against defendants the United Nations (" UN" ), the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (" MINUSTAH" ), United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and former Under-Secretary-General for MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet. (Dkt. No. 1 (" Compl." ).) Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants are responsible for an epidemic of cholera that broke out in Haiti in 2010, killing over 8,000 Haitians and making over 600,000 ill. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 1-2.)

Before the Court are two issues. First, Plaintiffs have been unable to serve the UN in person, and they request affirmation by the Court that service has been made, or, in the alternative, an extension of time for service of process by alternative means. Second is the question whether, under international treaties to which the United States is a party, Defendants are immune from Plaintiffs' suit. For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that all Defendants are immune. Accordingly, the case is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and Plaintiffs' motion is denied as moot.

I. Background[1]

Plaintiffs Delama Georges, Alius Joseph, Lisette Paul, Felicia Paule, and Jean Rony Silfort are citizens of the United States or Haiti who claim that they or their relatives were killed or made ill by the cholera epidemic that erupted in Haiti in 2010. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 14-18.) The UN is an international organization founded in 1945 with the goals of " maintain[ing] international peace and security" and " promot[ing] and encourage[ing] respect for human rights." ( Id. ¶ 19.) The UN's principal place of business is in New York. ( Id.) MINUSTAH is a subsidiary body of the UN established in 2004 and based in Haiti. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 20, 48.) Ban Ki-moon is and was, during the relevant time period, the Secretary-General of the UN. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Mulet was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MINUSTAH from March 31, 2010, to May 17, 2011 ( id. ¶ 22), and is now the Assistant Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations (Dkt. No. 21).

Plaintiffs allege that in October 2010, Defendants deployed over 1,000 UN personnel from Nepal to Haiti without screening them for cholera, a disease that is endemic to Nepal and with which some of the personnel were infected. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 5, 59.) Plaintiffs further allege that Defendants stationed these personnel on a base at the banks of the Meille Tributary, which flows into Haiti's primary source of drinking water, the Artibonite River. It was at this base, Plaintiffs contend, that these recently transferred personnel discharged raw untreated sewage into the tributary, causing an outbreak of cholera in Haiti. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 6-9.)

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants have failed to establish any claims commission or other dispute resolution mechanism to resolve the claims of those who have been injured or who have lost family members to the cholera outbreak. This refusal, Plaintiffs contend, is in direct contravention of Defendants' responsibility under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (" CPIUN" ) and the Agreement Between the United Nations and the Government of Haiti Concerning the Status of the United Nations Operation in ...


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