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Araceli Dotarot Montuya v. Antoine Chedid and Afife Nicole Chedid

April 26, 2011

ARACELI DOTAROT MONTUYA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANTOINE CHEDID AND AFIFE NICOLE CHEDID, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James E. Boasberg United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Araceli Dotarot Montuya brings this action against Defendants Antoine Chedid and Afife Nicole Chedid for various claims arising out of her employment as a domestic servant for Defendants. Antoine Chedid is the Ambassador of Lebanon to the United States, and Afife Nicole Chedid is his wife. Defendants have now filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint and Quash Service on the ground that Defendants are entitled to diplomatic immunity.*fn1

I.Background

In her Complaint Plaintiff alleges that she was brought to the United States in August 2007 to work as Defendants' domestic servant. Compl., ¶ 7. In that position Plaintiff claims that she performed a variety of tasks, including gardening, cleaning, cooking, and caring for Defendants' three children. Id., ¶ 9. She contends that she worked no fewer than 15 hours a day, six days a week, while employed by Defendants. Id., ¶¶ 10-12. For this work, she asserts, Defendants did not pay her minimum wage, even though they had signed a contract with the State Department saying they would. Id., ¶¶ 8, 18. When she complained about her working conditions, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants retaliated against her by verbally abusing and insulting her. Id., ¶¶ 13-14. Plaintiff, moreover, claims that she was not allowed to leave Defendants' home and was illegally confined there. Id., ¶ 15.

These allegations form the basis of Plaintiff's nine-count Complaint. More specifically, Plaintiff raises claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the District of Columbia's minimum wage law, as well as common law claims for breach of contract, intentional misrepresentation, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of mental distress. Finally, Count IX raises human rights violations based on her living conditions, violations of privacy, intimidation, and threats.

Defendants have responded by filing the instant Motion to Dismiss and Quash Service of Process.

II.Discussion

This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1351, which grants district courts "original jurisdiction, exclusive of the courts of the States, of all civil actions and proceedings against . . . members of a mission or members of their families (as such terms are defined in section 2 of the Diplomatic Relations Act)." See also Logan v. Dupuis, 990 F.Supp. 26, 27 n.2 (D.D.C. 1997).

A. Diplomatic Immunity

The question here, put simply, is whether Defendants' alleged acts are protected by diplomatic immunity. The answer requires an examination of the Vienna Convention and a determination whether a particular exception applies.

Diplomatic immunity is provided for in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations ratified by the United States in 1972. Article 31 of the VCDR provides that a "diplomatic agent shall . . . enjoy immunity from [the receiving state's] civil and administrative jurisdiction . . . ." VCDR, Article 31(1). There are three exceptions to this diplomatic immunity, including an exception "in the case of . . . (c) an action relating to any professional or commercial activity exercised by the diplomatic agent in the receiving State outside his official functions." Id. The VCDR, moreover, states that a diplomatic agent "shall not in the receiving State practise for personal profit any professional or commercial activity." VCDR, Article 42. Finally, Article 37 provides for the same immunity for "members of the family of a diplomatic agent forming part of his household, if they are not nationals of the receiving State."

In accordance with the treaty, Congress enacted the Diplomatic Relations Act, 22 U.S.C. § 254d, which provides that "[a]ny action or proceeding brought against an individual who is entitled to immunity with respect to such action or proceeding under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations . . . shall be dismissed." If the Court, therefore, concludes that Defendants are entitled to diplomatic immunity, it must dismiss the action. See Gonzalez Paredes v. Vila, 479 F.Supp. 2d 187, 191 (D.D.C. 2007); see also Sabbithi v. Al Saleh, 605 F.Supp. 2d 122, 130 (D.D.C. 2009), vacated in part on other grounds, No. 07 Civ. 115 (D.D.C. Mar. 8, 2011).

Diplomatic immunity "may be established upon motion or suggestion by or on behalf of the individual." 22 U.S.C. ยง 254d. Here, Defendants attached a letter from the State Department dated May 18, 2010, as an exhibit to their Motion to Dismiss. Motion, Ex. 3. In that letter, the State Department confirmed that in July 2007, the Embassy of Lebanon notified the State Department that Antoine Chedid was a diplomatic agent at the Embassy of Lebanon, and, as of May 2010, he continued to serve in that capacity. Id. The State Department also certified that the Embassy of Lebanon had notified it that Afife Nicole Chedid was his spouse and formed part of his household. Id. In addition, Defendants attached the State Department's Diplomatic List from 2007-2009, which lists Defendants as diplomats of Lebanon. Id., Ex. 2. The Court must accept the State Department's determination that Defendants have diplomatic status. See Jungquist v. Nahyan, 940 F.Supp. 312, 321-22 (D.D.C. 1996) rev'd in part on other grounds, 115 F.3d 1020 ("[T]he ...


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