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On 14 July 2005, three individuals from Mali and Global Exchange (a human rights organization) filed a class action lawsuit in California federal court against Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill. The individuals alleged they had been trafficked from Mali as child slaves and forced to work harvesting and/or cultivating cocoa beans on farms in Côte d’Ivoire. The plaintiffs allege that they were forced to work long hours without pay, kept in locked rooms when not working and suffered severe physical abuse by those guarding them. The plaintiffs allege that the companies aided, abetted or failed to prevent the torture, forced labour and arbitrary detention that they had suffered as child slaves. The lawsuit alleges violations of the Alien Tort Claims Act, Torture Victim Protection Act, US Constitution and California state law. The plaintiffs further claimed that the companies’ economic benefit from the labour of children violates international labour conventions, the law of nations and customary international law.
In August 2005, Nestlé filed a motion to force the disclosure of the names of the former child slave plaintiffs, which was opposed by the plaintiffs. In addition, the defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the case. On 27 July 2006, the court ordered further briefings to be filed on various issues related to aiding and abetting standards. On 8 September 2010 the court dismissed the case finding that the case could not be brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The court concluded that existing authorities did not demonstrate that corporate liability was sufficiently well established and universal to satisfy a claim under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal. In December 2013, a federal appeals court overturned the 2010 ruling and allowed the plaintiffs to refile the lawsuit.
- “Ivory Coast says its cocoa not tainted by slavery”, Reuters, 13 Feb 2006
-[FR] « Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland et Cargill attaquées pour travail des enfants » GRESEA, 28 septembre 2005
- “U.S. companies sued in Calif. over child labor claims”, Reuters, 16 Jul 2005
- Nestlé S.A.: [PDF] The Cocoa Plan: Nestlé and sustainable cocoa
- Archer Daniels Midland: [PDF] ADM Supports Responsible Cocoa Farming, 7 Feb 2006
- Cargill: Responsible Cocoa Sourcing and Production
- International Rights Advocates (co-counsel for plaintiffs): Nestle, Archers Daniel Midland, and Cargill [summary of case, includes links to certain legal documents]
- Global Exchange: “Nestle Taken to Court for Trafficking, Torture, and Beatings of Child Laborers on West African Cocoa Farms,” 03 Feb 2006
Doe v. Nestlé et al., US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- [PDF] Brief of amicus curiae EarthRights International in support of Plaintiffs/Appellants, 1 Jul 2011
- [PDF] Defendants' answering brief, 30 Sep 2011
- [PDF] Plaintiffs' opening brief, 24 Jun 2011
Doe v. Nestlé et al., US District Court, Central District of California
- [PDF] Order granting defendants' motion to dismiss, 8 Sep 2010
- [PDF] First amended complaint, 22 Jul 2009
- [PDF] Declaration of Herman N. (Rusty) Johnson in Support of Plaintiffs’ Supplementary Brief [with information about company sourcing practices], 9 Aug 2006
- [PDF] Defendants’ Joint Opening Brief in Response to Court’s July 27, 2006 Order, 9 Aug 2006
- [PDF] Declaration in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, 2 Jan 2006
- [PDF] Individuals (John Doe I, II & III) and Global Exchange, v. Nestle, Archers Daniels Midland, Cargill, et al. , 14 Jul 2005 [complaint]