“First-to-File” Rule Not Applicable

The case of International Fidelity Insurance v. Sweet Little Mexico Corporation (No. 11-40449, Dec. 22, 2011) rejected an argument that the U.S. Court of International Trade (“CIT”) had exclusive jurisdiction over a case between an importer and its surety about certain customs liabilities.  Op. at 4-10.  The Court then found no abuse of discretion in proceeding with that case even though there was a first-filed action in the CIT between the importer and U.S. Customs.  Acknowledging some overlap between the basic issue of customs liability and the secondary issue of the surety’s responsibility for that liability, the Court found that on these facts, “the ‘core issues’ in the two forums are not the same.”  Op. at 11.  The Court concluded that, based on the terms of the surety contract, the importer had to reimburse the surety for payments made “regardless of the outcome of the proceedings before the CIT.”  Op. at 13-16.  While the Court’s analysis of the “first-filed” and surety issues turns on the specific facts of the case, the issues addressed and the basic legal principles cited are broadly applicable to those topics.

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