Updated 4:11 p.m.
The salvage company that has been locked in a lengthy court battle with the Republic of Colombia over billions of dollars worth of sunken treasure has filed another suit in Washington federal district court.
The suit is the latest legal maneuvering by the Bellevue, Wash. company to assert its ownership interest in the undersea bounty. This month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the dismissal of an earlier lawsuit the company filed. The appeals court cited a three-year statute of limitations.
More than 300 years ago, the Spanish galleon San Jose sank off the coast of Colombia after a skirmish with British warships, taking with it a cargo of coins and bullion valued at as much as $17 billion. Sea Search contends the company is entitled to a cut of the treasure. The company has litigated on two fronts—in Colombia and in Washington, D.C.
In the suit the company filed yesterday, Sea Search Armada is seeking damages rooted in the hiring of contractors to assist in the salvage operations of the treasure.
The complaint, filed by James DelSordo of Argus Legal in Manassas, Va, alleges that three years after the Colombia Supreme Court in 2007 granted Sea Search Armada a 50 percent stake in the bounty, the company wrote to Colombia President Álvaro Uribe to initiate salvage operations with the country.
In response, the lawsuit claims, the country threatened the use of military force to prevent what it viewed as "unauthorized activities in jurisdictional maritime areas."
"This goes to the government of Colombia not merely harming Sea Search Armada, but interfering with our business with salvage contractors," DelSordo said in an interview. He added that the case falls within the statute of limitations based on the 2010 letter from Uribe.
Arnold & Porter partner Paolo Di Rosa, who previously represented Colombia in the federal trial and appellate court in Washington, derided the latest court filing.
""The case was decided already," Di Rosa said. "This is just a reheated slice of pizza: it's the same case with a slightly different cause of action, which they should've thought of and included in their complaint the first time around. We therefore expect this to be dismissed summarily on res judicata grounds."