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2nd Circuit Rejects Corporate Liability in Alien Tort Act Cases

Author: Mark Hamblett, New York Law Journal, Published on: 20 September 2010

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected outright Friday the theory that corporations can be held liable in the United States under the Alien Tort Statute for violations of international law in foreign countries. In a sweeping decision rebuffing a lawsuit against The Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. and others for allegedly aiding and abetting human rights violations during oil exploration in Nigeria, the court declared that "corporate liability is not a discernible -- much less universally recognized -- norm of customary international law that we may apply pursuant to ATS (Alien Tort Statute)."…[Judge] Cabranes wrote that the circuit was holding that…"in ATS suits alleging violations of customary international law, the scope of liability -- who is liable for what -- is determined by customary international law itself."

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