Contempt hearing in case pitting U.S. order against $66M Liberian judgment delayed

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jan 7, 2016

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania  

PHILADELPHIA – A contempt hearing surrounding a number of parties funding the pursuit of a Liberian multimillion-dollar insurance verdict that a U.S. judge says violates a federal court injunction has been continued.

Originally slated for Jan. 7, the hearing will now take place Jan. 26 at 1 p.m. at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Judge Paul S. Diamond ordered respondents Martin Kenney, Samuel M. Lohman and Garrett Kelleher to appear at the hearing and show cause why they should not be found in contempt of a 2001 injunction forbidding legal action against Cigna Worldwide Insurance Company (CWW).

Per Diamond, failure to appear on the part of the respondents “may lead to the imposition of fines or other sanctions.”

Through their respective counsel, Kenney, Lohman and Kelleher have all submitted correspondence indicating they do not plan to attend the hearing, as they feel it would make them subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court.

Counsel for Kenney and Lohman stated they would attend the hearing instead, to answer any questions on behalf of their clients.

The case history began in 1991, when plaintiff Abi Jaoudi and Azar Trading Corporation (AJA), owner of commercial property in Liberia, brought action against CWW, in connection with damage the plaintiff’s commercial properties sustained in the Liberian civil war. 

After a jury verdict for AJA, Judge Thomas N. O’Neill Jr. reversed their findings and entered a judgment in favor of CWW, finding the property damage was subject to the policy’s war risk exclusion.

O’Neill’s ruling was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided not to review it.

However, AJA later refiled the case against CWW in a Liberian court and won a judgment of $66.5 million in 1998. When AJA tried to enforce the judgment, O’Neill issued an injunction in 2001, prohibiting any and all attempts to collect the $66.5 million judgment award in question.

The following year, a Liberian court reaffirmed the multimillion-dollar judgment and labeled O’Neill’s injunction “unenforceable”.

Diamond alleges Kenney, a dual Irish and Canadian citizen based in the British Virgin Islands who practiced as a foreign legal consultant in New York, and Lohman, a United States citizen and a member of the Oregon bar with an office in Switzerland, “acted in concert to violate O’Neill’s injunction.” 

In February 2005, Kenney and Lohman formed CC International Ltd., an entity to “obtain access to a court of neutral jurisdiction to determine the validity of their claims” – such as the enforceability of the $66.5 million Liberian judgment.

In return for CCI stock, AJA assigned CCI title to rights to receive proceeds from the enforcement of the enjoined Liberian judgment.

In November 2008, CWW filed a motion for contempt against AJA, a Liberian receiver, Lohman and others for violating O’Neill’s injunction. 

CWW also sought through discovery to identify the funders of the efforts to enforce the Liberian judgment. After a long discovery process, it was learned in August 2014 that Garrett Kelleher, an Irish property developer, had invested $2.85 million in efforts to enforce the Liberian judgment. 

Funds from Echemus Investment Management Ltd., an investment vehicle Kenney had served “to fund various cross-border asset recovery claims,” supplemented Kelleher’s funding. On Nov. 12, 2014, CWW personally served Kelleher in Ireland with papers naming him as a contempt party. 

CWW then filed an amended motion for contempt on April 1. 

The plaintiff is represented by John J. Seehousen in Philadelphia.

The defendant is represented by Donald Francis Donovan and Robert D. Goodman of Debevoise & Plimpton, Donald W. Hawthorne of Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider, Louis B. Kimmelman of O’Melveny & Myers, all in New York, N.Y.; David J. Creagan of White & Williams and Ilan Rosenberg of Gordon & Rees, both in Philadelphia, Richard J. Bortnick of Cozen O’Connor in West Conshohocken and Matthew S. Hackell.

The respondents are represented by Henry F. Reichner of Reed Smith, Michael Conley, Mark E. Gottlieb and William H. Pillsbury of Offit Kurman; Beth L. Weisser, Rochelle Laws and William H. Stassen of Fox Rothschild, all in Philadelphia; Garrett Kelleher of Thomas J. Murphy P.C., Donald A. Vogelsang of Grippo & Elden, Gary M. Miller and Matthew C. Wolfe of Shook Hardy & Bacon, all in Chicago, Ill.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:91-cv-06785

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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