ExxonMobil lawsuit (re Aceh)
Snapshot: In 2001, eleven Indonesian villagers filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil in US federal court alleging that the company was complicit in human rights abuses committed by their security forces in the province of Aceh. In July 2015, after years of legal proceedings, a federal court ruled that the plaintiffs' claims could proceed in US court. The case was settled in May 2023.
In 2001, eleven Indonesian villagers filed suit against ExxonMobil in US federal court alleging that the company was complicit in human rights abuses committed by Indonesian security forces in the province of Aceh. The plaintiffs maintain that ExxonMobil hired the security forces, who were members of the Indonesian military, to protect the natural gas extraction facility and pipeline which ExxonMobil was operating. The plaintiffs further claim that ExxonMobil knew or should have known about the Indonesian military’s human rights violations against the people of Aceh. The plaintiffs allege that they suffered human rights violations, such as murder, torture and rape, at the hands of these security forces.
On October 14, 2005, a US federal judge ruled that the plaintiffs’ case may proceed on District of Columbia (DC) state law claims (which include wrongful death, theft by coercion and assault and battery), but he dismissed the plaintiffs’ federal claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act. On March 2, 2006, a US federal judge denied a motion to dismiss filed by ExxonMobil, and ordered the parties to proceed toward discovery in this case. In January of 2007, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit denied ExxonMobil's appeal of the lower court's denial of its motion to dismiss. Additionally, the court of appeals denied ExxonMobil's petition for a writ of mandamus to compel the lower court to dismiss the claims against the company. In July of 2007, ExxonMobil appealed to the US Supreme Court (petitioned for a writ of certiorari). On 13 November 2007, the US Supreme Court invited the US Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the executive branch on this petition. On 16 June 2008, the US Supreme declined to hear this case. On 27 August 2008, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on a motion for summary judgment filed by ExxonMobil; the judge declined to grant the defendants’ motion. The judge found that the plaintiffs had presented sufficient preliminary evidence to support their allegations of abuse and therefore the case should be submitted to a jury for trial. On 30 September 2009, the US District Court ruled on another motion to dismiss from the defendants. The judge granted ExxonMobil's motion to dismiss the case finding that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the case in a US court. On 8 July 2011, the Court of Appeals reversed the district court's dismissal of the case, finding that a corporation should not be immune from liability under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The court remanded the lawsuit to the lower court. ExxonMobil filed a motion with the Court of Appeals on 8 August 2011 asking the court to rehear the case en banc.
In November 2021, plaintiffs' lawyers filed a motion to set a trial date, which could happen in the Spring of 2022.
In April 2022, a US judge ordered ExxonMobil to pay $288,900.78 in legal fees and expenses to the plaintiff's lawyer following a botched deposition in 2020.
On 22 July 2022, a US District Judge denied some of ExxonMobil’s attempts to have the case dismissed and ruled that case can go to trial. A trial date has been set for 24 May 2023.
On 15 May 2023, almost a week before the trial date and twenty years since the violations first occurred, ExxonMobil settled the case to “bring closure for all parties”.
- Indonesian ExxonMobil accusers get day in court after 21 years, Al Jazeera, 27 Jul 2022
-ExxonMobil issued rare penalty in ongoing Indonesian rights case, Al Jazeera, 20 Apr 2022
-ExxonMobil Indonesia lawsuit heads for trial after 20 years, Associated Press, 31 Dec 2021
- "Exxon Wants Rehearing in Corporate Liability Dispute", Mike Carcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 10 Aug 2011
- "Appeals Court Revives Torture Claims Against Exxon", Mike Scarcella, Blog of the Legal Times, 8 Jul 2011
- "Judge Dismisses Indonesians' Lawsuit Against Exxon", Brent Kendall, Dow Jones, 30 Sep 2009
- “Judge Rejects Summary Judgment in Human Rights Lawsuit Against Exxon”, Mike Scarcella, Legal Times, 28 Aug 2008
- "Briefing: Exxon faces lawsuit on killings in Indonesia - Business - International Herald Tribune", New York Times, 17 Jan 2007
- "Exxon: Torture suit sets bad precedent", Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press, 8 Mar 2006
- “ExxonMobil Rejects Aceh Human Rights Abuse Claims”, Kirsty Alfredson, CNN.com, 22 Jun 2001
- ExxonMobil: Human Rights Policy
- Cohen, Milstein (co-counsel for the plaintiffs): ExxonMobil - Aceh, Indonesia
- International Rights Advocates (co-counsel for the plaintiffs): ExxonMobil: Case Summary (includes links to legal briefs filed in this case)
- [PDF] John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Petition for Rehearing En Banc, 8 Aug 2011
- [PDF] Exxon Mobil Corporation v. John Doe I – Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, Reply Brief in Support of Petition, 23 Oct 2007
- [PDF] Exxon Mobil Corporation v. John Doe I – Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, 20 Jul 2007
- US State Department: [PDF] Amicus Brief filed in Doe et al. v. ExxonMobil et al., 14 Jul 2003
- International Rights Advocates: [PDF] Complaint filed for Doe et al. v. ExxonMobil et.al., 11 Jun 2001
- US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia: [PDF] John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Opinion of the Court, 8 Jul 2011
- US District Court for the District of Columbia: [PDF] John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Memorandum Opinion, 30 Sep 2009
- US District Court for the District of Columbia: [PDF] John Doe, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, et al. - Memorandum & Opinion, 27 Aug 2008
- US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: [PDF] Doe et al. v. ExxonMobil, 12 Jan 2007