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24 Apr 2018

Amy Howe, SCOTUSBlog (USA)

Opinion analysis: Court bars lawsuits against foreign corporations under Alien Tort Statute

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Nearly seven years ago, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether corporations can be sued under the Alien Tort Statute...The justices ultimately did not resolve the corporate liability question in that case...[T]oday they did settle the issue, holding...that foreign corporations may not be sued under the ATS.  The decision will almost certainly put a halt to efforts...by foreign plaintiffs to hold foreign corporations responsible in U.S. courts for human rights violations abroad...Jesner v. Arab Bank, was filed in the United States by victims of terrorist attacks that occurred between 1995 and 2005 in Israel...The court emphasized that when Congress enacted the ATS, its primary goal was to avoid foreign-relations problems by making sure that federal courts were available to review lawsuits by foreign nationals alleging violations of international law “where the failure to provide one might cause another nation to hold the United States responsible for an injury to a foreign citizen.”  But in this case and others, the court continued, allowing a lawsuit to go forward in U.S. courts was having precisely the opposite effect, creating “significant diplomatic tensions with Jordan...” Moreover...the court should generally refrain from creating or extending new grounds for lawsuits...Justice Sonia Sotomayor...castigated her colleagues for absolving “corporations from responsibility under the ATS for conscience-shocking behavior.”...

Part of the following timelines

US Supreme Court rules that foreign corporations cannot be sued for human rights abuses under the Alien Tort Statute

Arab Bank lawsuit (re terrorist attacks in Israel)