Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Can U.S. Corporations Be Held Liable Under the Alien Tort Statute?

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today in a case that may determine whether U.S. corporate entities, in this case Cargill, Inc. and Nestle (a U.S. subsidiary of the Swiss-based company), may be held liable under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The plaintiffs are former child laborers who were trafficked from Mali to the Ivory Coast where they were forced to work on cocoa bean farms. The lawsuit alleges that Cargill and Nestle continued to do business with these farmers knowing they used child labor. Cargill and Nestle respond that they have policies in place that forbid the use of child slave labor and have taken steps to prevent it in the supply chain.

In Kiobel, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a lawsuit under the ATS must sufficiently "touch and concern" the United States to survive. One question is whether these facts meet that standard. A second question is whether the U.S. Supreme Court will extend its holding in Jesner shielding foreign corporations from liability under the ATS to also exempt U.S. corporations from ATS suits.  Stay tuned for developments.



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