In the movie Denial (and obviously in real life too) David Irving sues Deborah Lipstadt in the British courts not the American courts.

How does that work? Can people sue other people in foreign countries and force them to respond?

Is she forced to either attend/settle, or can she ignore it?

2 Answers 2


It's hard to know why people choose the venues they choose. But, the UK is known for having very plaintiff-friendly libel law (although less-so now).

Libel tourism was much more feasible in 1996, when David Irving brought his suit. But, as of 2014, "claimants wanting to sue defendants who do not live in Europe will have to prove that England is the most appropriate place for the case." (New Law Makes Suing for Libel Harder in England)

Further, in the U.S., the SPEECH Act of 2010 makes foreign libel judgements unenforceable in the U.S. unless the defendant would have been found liable even under U.S. Law.


If a foreign court enters a judgment against someone by default that judgment will probably be enforceable in the country where the judgment was entered (or in the case of the U.S. in the state where it was entered with easy domestication to another U.S. state) against assets in that country. So, if you own real estate, or have bank accounts, or work, or do business is the forum state, you probably can't afford to ignore such a lawsuit.

Many U.S. judgments (especially in "tort" matters) are not automatically enforceable abroad, mostly because foreign countries are concerned about the non-economic and punitive damages available in U.S. courts in such lawsuits. Many foreign judgments (for example in defamation cases as noted in another answer to your question) are not enforceable in the U.S. (similarly, most judgments in Saudi Arabian courts are not enforceable due to a lack of due process in the court system there).

A foreign judgment in a contract case or in an arbitration forum agreed to be contract, is much more likely to be enforceable in another country, although what is necessary to "domesticate" a foreign judgment varies a fair amount. Some countries require what amounts to proof from scratch of the entire case almost, but may allow evidence from the prior case such as transcripts to be admitted, while other countries, particularly when a recognition of foreign judgments act applies, will routinely rubber stamp certain kinds of foreign judgments.

Many U.S. states have adopted the Uniform Recognition of Foreign Money Judgments Act, either in its original 1962 version or with 2005 amendments. The official summary of this act is as follows:

The first step towards enforcement is recognition of the foreign country judgment. The recognition occurs in a state court when an appropriate action is filed for the purpose. If the judgment meets the statutory standards, the state court will recognize it. It then may be enforced as if it is a judgment of another state of the United States. Enforcement may then proceed, which means the judgment creditor may proceed against the property of the judgment debtor to satisfy the judgment amount.

First, it must be shown that the judgment is conclusive, final and enforceable in the country of origin. Certain money judgments are excluded, such as judgments on taxes, fines or criminal-like penalties and judgments relating to domestic relations. Domestic relations judgments are enforced under other statutes, already existing in every state. A foreign-country judgment must not be recognized if it comes from a court system that is not impartial or that dishonors due process, or there is no personal jurisdiction over the defendant or over the subject matter of the litigation. There are a number of grounds that may make a U.S. court deny recognition, i.e., the defendant did not receive notice of the proceeding or the claim is repugnant to American public policy. A final, conclusive judgment enforceable in the country of origin, if it is not excluded for one of the enumerated reasons, must be recognized and enforced. The 1962 Act and the 2005 Act generally operate the same.

The primary differences between the 1962 and the 2005 Uniform Acts are as follows:

  1. The 2005 Act makes it clear that a judgment entitled to full faith and credit under the U.S. Constitution is not enforceable under this Act. This clarifies the relationship between the Foreign-Country Money Judgments Act and the Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act. Recognition by a court is a different procedure than enforcement of a sister state judgment from within the United States.

  2. The 2005 Act expressly provides that a party seeking recognition of a foreign judgment has the burden to prove that the judgment is subject to the Uniform Act. Burden of proof was not addressed in the 1962 Act.

  3. Conversely, the 2005 Act imposes the burden of proof for establishing a specific ground for non-recognition upon the party raising it. Again, burden of proof is not addressed in the 1962 Act.

  4. The 2005 Act addresses the specific procedure for seeking enforcement. If recognition is sought as an original matter, the party seeking recognition must file an action in the court to obtain recognition. If recognition is sought in a pending action, it may be filed as a counter-claim, cross-claim or affirmative defense in the pending action. The 1962 Act does not address the procedure to obtain recognition at all, leaving that to other state law.

  5. The 2005 Act provides a statute of limitations on enforcement of a foreign-country judgment. If the judgment cannot be enforced any longer in the country of origin, it may not be enforced in a court of an enacting state. If there is no limitation on enforcement in the country of origin, the judgment becomes unenforceable in an enacting state after 15 years from the time the judgment is effective in the country of origin.

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