Archangel Diamond v. OAO Lukoil, No. 14-1510 (10th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff Archangel Diamond Corporation Liquidating Trust, as successor-in-interest to Archangel Diamond Corporation (collectively, “Archangel”), appealed dismissal of its civil case against defendant OAO Lukoil (“Lukoil”), in which it alleged claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), breach of contract, and commercial tort law. The district court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction over Lukoil and under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Archangel Diamond Corporation was a Canadian company and bankrupt. The liquidating trust was located in Colorado. In 1993, Archangel entered into an agreement with State Enterprise Arkhangelgeology (“AGE”), a Russian state corporation, regarding a potential license to explore and develop diamond mining operations in the Archangelsk region of Russia. Archangel and AGE agreed that Archangel would provide additional funds and that the license would be transferred to their joint venture company. However, the license was never transferred and remained with AGE. In 1995, AGE was privatized and became Arkhangelskgeoldobycha (“AGD”), and the license was transferred to AGD. Diamonds worth an estimated $5 billion were discovered within the license region. In 1998, Lukoil acquired a controlling stake in AGD, eventually making AGD a wholly owned subsidiary of Lukoil. Pursuant to an agreement, arbitration took place in Stockholm, Sweden, to resolve the license transfer issue. When AGD failed to honor the agreement, Archangel reactivated the Stockholm arbitration, but the arbitrators this time concluded that they lacked jurisdiction to arbitrate the dispute even as to AGD. Archangel then sued AGD and Lukoil in Colorado state court. AGD and Lukoil removed the case to Colorado federal district court. The district court remanded the case, concluding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because all of the claims were state law claims. The state trial court then dismissed the case against both AGD and Lukoil based on lack of personal jurisdiction and forum non conveniens. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal as to AGD, reversed as to Lukoil, and remanded (leaving Lukoil as the sole defendant). On remand, the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s previous dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds, which it had not addressed before, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. The trial court granted Lukoil and AGD's motion to hold an evidentiary hearing, and the parties engaged in jurisdictional discovery. In 2008 and early 2009, the case was informally stayed while the parties discussed settlement and conducted discovery. By June 2009, Archangel had fallen into bankruptcy due to the expense of the litigation. On Lukoil’s motion and over the objection of Archangel, the district court referred the matter to the bankruptcy court, concluding that the matter was related to Archangel’s bankruptcy proceedings. Lukoil then moved the bankruptcy court to abstain from hearing the matter, and the bankruptcy court concluded that it should abstain. The bankruptcy court remanded the case to the Colorado state trial court. The state trial court again dismissed the action. While these state-court appeals were still pending, Archangel filed this case before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, maintaining that Lukoil had a wide variety of jurisdictional contacts with Colorado and the United States as a whole. Finding no reversible error in the district court's ruling dismissing the case on forum non conveniens grounds, the Tenth Circuit affirmed.