China: The Hubei Gezhouba Sanlian Case: Enforcement of a Chinese Monetary Judgment in the United States

Last Updated: 25 March 2012
Article by Ariel Ye and Ge Yan


With the exception of judgments dealing with divorce and custodial issues, it is rare for those issued by Chinese courts to be enforced in the United States. Therefore, it was a significant development when, in the matter of Hubei Gezhouba Sanlian Industrial Co., Ltd. et. al. v. Robinson Helicopter Co., Inc., 06-01798 (C.D. Cal 2009) (the "Sanlian Case"), United States District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper decided to enforce a monetary judgment of almost US $6.5 million awarded by the Higher People's Court of Hubei Province, China, (the "Hubei Higher Court") against Robinson Helicopter Company, an aircraft manufacturer based in Torrance, California ("Robinson").

On 29 March 2011, the judgment was affirmed by circuit Judges Rymer, Callahan and Ikuta of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This is the first ever United States appellate ruling that affirms enforcement of a PRC court judgment in the United States.

Case History

Hubei Gezhouba Sanlian Industrial Co., Ltd. ("Gezhouba") was the owner of a model R-44 helicopter manufactured by Robinson. Hubei Pinghu Cruise Co., Ltd. ("Pinghu") was the owner of a river cruise boat from which the helicopter had been operating. On Tuesday, March 22, 1994 the helicopter crashed into the Yangtze River, causing the death of three people. The crash was the result of a manufacturing defect in the particular Robinson R-44 model and in March 1995, the two Chinese companies sued Robinson in the Superior Court of the State of California claiming negligence, strict liability and breach of implied warranty. Robinson demurred, arguing that the Peoples' Republic of China had an independent judiciary which followed due process of law and that a Chinese court would have jurisdiction over the case. The California Superior Court agreed, and the suit was dismissed on the grounds that China was a more convenient forum. However, as a condition for dismissal of the California lawsuit, Robinson agreed to toll the statute of limitations and to abide by any judgment rendered by a Chinese court.

In 2001, after an attempt to submit the case to arbitration in the United States failed, the Chinese companies decided to commence civil proceedings against Robinson in the Hubei Higher Court in Hubei. A three-judge panel was formed, and among other things, it properly notified Robinson of the date set down for trial, March 25, 2004, in accordance with the

provisions of the PRC Civil Procedure Law 1) 2. Robinson failed to appear on that date but the trial continued. After assessing the evidence submitted in due course by the plaintiffs, the three-judge panel found that the fatal helicopter crash had indeed been the result of manufacturing defects in the Robinson R-44. Finally, in December 2004, the Hubei Higher Court issued a judgment awarding the equivalent of approximately US $ 6.5 million in favour of Gezhouba and Pinghu (Hubei Gezhouba Sanlian Industrial Co., Ltd., v. Robinson Helicopter Company Inc., Case No (2001) E-Min-Si-Chu-1), (the "PRC Judgment"). and Article 5(a) of the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters ("Hague Convention"

Since the PRC Judgment was rendered by a court of first instance, Robinson had an automatic right of appeal under the PRC Civil Procedure Law which, as a party without domicile in the PRC, it had to exercise within 30 days of service. However, Robinson did not exercise its right of appeal in the PRC courts, and as a consequence the PRC Judgment became final and enforceable under PRC law. Because Robinson was a party without domicile in the PRC, the plaintiffs were entitled, in principle, in accordance with the PRC Civil Procedure Law, to apply for recognition and enforcement of the PRC Judgment directly to the foreign court with jurisdiction over Robinson's assets.

There is no treaty and there are no reciprocal arrangements between the U.S. and China with respect to the mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments issued by each other's courts in civil and commercial matters. However, in the U.S., the general principles of comity and recognition of foreign money judgments have been codified in the Uniform Foreign Money Judgments

Recognition Act ("UFM-JRA") 3 and the state of California has adopted the provisions of the UFM-JRA in its Code of Civil Procedure.

Notwithstanding this, the plaintiffs' initial efforts to obtain recognition of the PRC Judgment in the U.S. were rejected. In enforcement proceedings before the United States District Court for Central District of California, Robinson argued, and presiding Judge Cooper agreed, that the PRC Judgment was void because California Law rather than PRC Law applied to the statute of limitations, which had expired before the Chinese proceedings were commenced. However, the plaintiffs appealed Judge Cooper's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which ruled that the Chinese proceedings were not time-barred. This was so, according to the Court of Appeals, because Robinson's agreement to toll the statute of limitations in the original California Superior Court proceedings remained in place. The Court of Appeals also found that recognition and enforcement of the PRC judgment would not offend California's public policy against stale claims.

The Enforcement Decision

On remand to the California Central District Court, Judge Cooper again heard argument from the parties concerning recognition and enforcement of the PRC Judgment. At the bench trial on June 2 and 3 2009, Robinson argued, contrary to its original position, that the Chinese legal system does not provide impartial tribunals or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process. However, finding no evidence that the Hubei Higher Court's decision lacked either impartiality or due process, Judge Cooper ruled that the PRC Judgment was "final, conclusive and enforceable under the laws of the People's Republic of China" deciding on August 12, 2009 that "Plaintiffs are hereby entitled to the issuance of a domestic judgment in this action in the amount of the PRC Judgment, with interest calculated as set forth in the PRC Judgment."

The Appeal Decision

Robinson appealed Judge Cooper's decision to a panel of three judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Following a hearing on 9 March 2011 the appeal court ruled that "Robinson Helicopter is estopped from arguing that the judgment of the Higher People's Court of Hubei Province in the People's Republic of China (PRC) in favour of Hubei Gezhouba Sanlian Industrial and Hubei Pinghu Cruise Company (collectively "Hubei") is not "enforceable where rendered" under California's Uniform Foreign-Money Judgments Recognition Act" and declined to consider a new argument raised by Robinson that the PRC statute of limitations had expired before the Chinese parties had filed their claim with the Hubei Higher Court in Hubei. Thus, on 29 March 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its ruling which affirmed Judge Cooper's decision to enforce the US $ 6.5 million PRC Judgment.

Legal Analysis

The UFM-JRA has been adopted as law by the majority of the U.S. states. Under the UFM-JRA, a "Foreign Money Judgment" means any judgment rendered in a jurisdiction outside the U.S. and its territories which has the effect of granting or refusing the recovery of a sum of money. Under the law of states which have adopted the UFM-JRA, a Foreign Money Judgment is subject to a limited-scope inquiry before it can be recognized and enforced as a domestic money judgment. A defendant challenging recognition of a Foreign Money Judgment may not retry issues of liability or damages, but is instead limited to the due-process type defenses enumerated in the UFM-JRA.

As a mandatory condition, a Foreign Money Judgment must be final, conclusive and enforceable under the law of the jurisdiction in which it was rendered. In addition, a U.S. court applying the UFM-JRA must be satisfied that the foreign court a) has rendered its judgment under a system that provides impartial tribunals or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process; (b) has personal jurisdiction over the defendant; and (c) has subject matter jurisdiction over the controversy.

A U.S. court applying the UFM-JRA may also take into consideration any of the following circumstances: (a) that the defendant received sufficient notice of the proceedings; (b) that the judgment was not obtained by fraud; (c) that the judgment is not repugnant to the enforcing court's public policy; (d) that the judgment is not in conflict with another final and conclusive judgment; (e) that the judgment is not inconsistent with an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) agreement between the parties; (f) where jurisdiction is based on personal service alone, that the foreign tribunal was not a seriously inconvenient forum; and (g) whether or not the foreign court reciprocally recognizes judgments from the U.S. However, it is not necessary for a U.S. court to consider any of these discretionary factors when making a decision to enforce a foreign monetary judgment under the UFM-JRA.

In the Sanlian case, the California District Court found that the PRC judgment involved the recovery of a sum of money, the PRC judgment itself was final, conclusive, and enforceable under the laws of the PRC, and service was proper. As California's law adopting the UFM-JRA applied to the case, and no evidence was put forward that any of the mandatory conditions for recognition had not been fulfilled, the plaintiffs were entitled to a domestic judgment. The uniform principles governing recognition of Foreign Money Judgments in the U.S. do not discriminate against any particular jurisdiction of origin. As a result, Chinese litigants can rely on U.S. legal authority pertaining to the recognition of Foreign Money Judgments originating from any country in order to determine whether a judgment from China will be granted domestic recognition and enforcement under a given set of facts.

While cases under the UFM-JRA abound, cases specifically addressing recognition of Foreign Money Judgments entered in China are still relatively few. The decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is the first ever appellate ruling which affirms the enforcement a PRC court judgment in the United States. More importantly, the decision can be cited as a precedent by other Chinese companies seeking enforcement of domestic money judgments in the United States.


If future Chinese monetary judgments otherwise meet the mandatory requirements of the UFM-JRA, there is very little to distinguish them under U.S. law from Foreign Money Judgments entered in jurisdictions with well-established reputations for impartiality and due process such as the courts of England, Australia or Canada, as demonstrated in the Sanlian Case. Litigants domiciled in the U.S. but defending claims in the PRC courts should take note of the California District Court's recent findings and the appellate ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Ms. Ariel Ye is the head of King & Wood's cross-border dispute resolution department and Ms. Ge Yan is a partner in King & Wood's cross-border dispute resolution department. Ms. Ye and Ms. Ge were PRC counsel for the plaintiff Hubei Gezhouba Sanlian Industrial Co., Ltd. in this case, part of a team of lawyers which achieved the important milestone of obtaining recognition of a Chinese monetary judgment in a United States court and in 2011 they were part of the team which obtained the first ever United States appellate ruling affirming enforcement of a PRC court judgment.

(This article was originally written in Chinese, the English version is a translation)


[1] The PRC Civil Procedure Law promulgated and effective as of April 9, 1991 is applicable to the Case.
[2] Hague Convention was opened for signing as from November 15, 1965 and was effective as from February 10, 1969. Both the US and the PRC have signed the Hague Convention, which is applicable to service of documents from a member country to another member country.
[3] UFMJRA was formulated by the US National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1962. Each US state can decide whether to adopt UFMJRA according to its own conditions. Up to July 2008, UFMJRA has been adopted by 32 states and territories of the US.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.