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Firestone lawsuit (re Liberia)

In November 2005, a group of adults and children who work on the Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia filed a class action lawsuit against the company in US federal court. The plaintiffs alleged that the working conditions on the plantation amounted to forced labour. In June 2006, the claims brought by adult workers were dismissed. In July 2011, the case was also dismissed in relation to claims brought by children.

 

In November 2005 a group of adults and children who live and work on the Firestone rubber plantation in Liberia filed a class action lawsuit in US federal court in California.  The plaintiffs made claims against Firestone (owned by Bridgestone Corporation) under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) alleging that the working conditions at the rubber plantation amount to forced labour.  The complaint further claims under ATCA that the company has profited from the use of illegal child labour.  The plaintiffs allege that the supervisors at the Firestone plantation encouraged and even required the adult workers to put their children (some as young as six years old) to work to meet the company’s high production quotas.  According to the plaintiffs, the daily wage of a Firestone plantation worker is $3.19 if the worker can tap 1125 trees in a day.  If the worker only taps 750 trees in a day, he will lose half of his daily wage.  In addition, the plaintiffs made claims under the US Constitution and under California state law.  The defendants moved to dismiss the case arguing that the workers had not pleaded sufficient facts to support their claims of forced labour. 

In April 2006, the case was transferred to federal court in Indiana.  In June 2006, the court ruled on the defendants’ motion to dismiss.  The judge denied the motion to dismiss with regard to the plaintiffs’ child forced labour claims under ATCA, but he granted the motion to dismiss with regard to the balance of the claims.  The judge granted the motion to dismiss the claims of adult forced labour finding that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently plead violations of specific, universal and obligatory norms of international law necessary for a claim under ATCA.  However, the judge did find that the forced child labour allegations were sufficiently pleaded to permit the claims to be brought under ATCA.  On 5 October 2010, the district court in Indiana dismissed the case.  The court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss on the basis that, according to the decision in Kiobel v. Shell, no "corporate liability exists under" ATCA.  The plaintiffs appealed this dismissal, and on 11 July 2011 the court of appeals issued a decision in which it affirmed the dismissal, but the appeals court specifically rejected the Kiobel argument that no corporate liability exists under ATCA.

 

- "Firestone wins Liberian child labor case in US", Jonathan Stempel, Reuters, 13 Jul 2011
- "Worldview: Firestone's Rubber Plantation in Liberia", Chicago Public Radio, 15 Feb 2008

- "Exploitation In Liberia", Analyst [Liberia], 21 Apr 2006

- "Modern-day slavery in Liberia", Robtel Pailey, Pambazuka News [So. Africa], 2 Feb 2006

- "Alien Tort Claims Act Lawsuit Alleges Slavery and Child Labor on Liberian Firestone Plantation", William Baue, SocialFunds.com, 30 Dec 2005

 

- Firestone Natural Rubber Company: Blog - Child Labor Myths, posted by Charles Stuart, Managing Director, Firestone Liberia, 8 Apr 2008

- International Rights Advocates [counsel for plaintiffs]: Bridgestone-Firestone Case Summary

- Stop Firestone: About the lawsuit [campaign regarding child labour and environmental issues]


- Flomo v. Firestone Natural Rubber Company, US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 11 Jul 2011
- [PDF] Flomo v. Firestone Natural Rubber Company - Order, US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, 5 Oct 2010
- [PDF] Plaintiffs' Motion and Memorandum in Support of Motion For a Protective Order to Require Defendants to Conduct the Depositions of Plaintiffs and their Third-Party Liberian Witnesses with Interpreters, 23 Apr 2008

- US District court for the Southern District of Indiana: [PDF] John Roe I, et al. v. Bridgestone Corporation, et al. - Entry on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, 26 Jun 2007

- [PDF] Plaintiffs' supplemental brief in reply to Defendants' supplemental brief, 7 Aug 2006

- [PDF] Defendants' motion for leave to file a supplemental brief in response to declaration of Terry Collingsworth and supplemental brief in response to Terry Collingsworth, 26 Jul 2006

- [PDF] Defendants' reply memorandum in support of motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint, 27 Mar 2006

- [PDF] Plaintiffs' memorandum of points and authorities in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss, 20 Mar 2006

- [PDF] Class action complaint for injunctive relief and damages, 17 Nov 2005

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