Oder-Neisse Property Expropriation Case

CourtCourt of Appeal of Munich (Germany)
Federal Republic of Germany, Superior Provincial Court (Oberlandesgericht) of Munich
Oder-Neisse Property Expropriation Case1

Sovereign immunity Foreign States Expropriation of property-Claim for compensation Whether Polish State entitled to jurisdictional immunity Whether legislative activity a sovereign activity Whether entitlement to immunity depends on ability of foreign State to act sovereignly in its territory Whether the fixing of a date for a hearing constitutes an exercise of jurisdiction Whether a plaintiffs lack of legal rights in a foreign State relevant The law of the Federal Republic of Germany

Summary: The facts:The plaintiff2 claimed compensation from the Polish State for the expropriation of property of his predecessor in title carried out under a Polish Decree of 1946, enacted at a time when the Polish State was administering the territory where the property in question was situated on a temporary basis. The Provincial Court of Munich (Landgericht) made an order refusing to fix a date for a hearing. The plaintiff appealed.

Held:The appeal was dismissed.

(1) The sovereignty of a foreign State was inviolable so that it could not be subjected to the jurisdiction of another State in respect of its sovereign activities. The qualification of an activity as sovereign or non-sovereign was to be made according to municipal law.

(2) The legislative activity of a foreign State was a sovereign activity so that there could be no German jurisdiction for claims for compensation based on such activity.

(3) It made no difference, as far as the right of a foreign State to exemption from domestic jurisdiction was concerned, whether or not it acted sovereignly in its own territory. The nature of the sovereign activity as such was the decisive factor, especially where the foreign State claimed sovereign rights over the territory being administered by it.

(4) The fixing of a date for a hearing was an exercise of jurisdiction so that where it was certain that a foreign State was not subject to German jurisdiction and would very probably not voluntarily submit to it the fixing of a date had to be refused.

(5) A foreign State was also exempted from domestic jurisdiction where the plaintiff had no possibility of bringing an action in the State concerned and was therefore without legal rights.

The following is the text of the judgment of the Court:

The plaintiff brought an action before the Provincial Court (Landgericht) against the Federal Republic of Germany and...

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