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Suing corporations should be a last resort

On Feb. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The case is about Shell’s alleged complicity in torture and extrajudicial killings committed by the Nigerian military in the mid-1990s, and is expected to determine whether corporations can be sued in the U.S. for their involvement in human rights abuses abroad. Corporate lawyers and plaintiffs’ attorneys alike are eagerly awaiting the outcome. If the Supreme Court upholds corporate liability, as federal courts have in the past and the Obama administration is encouraging the High Court to do, other lawsuits will surely follow…But we should not let this case distract us from the fact that lawsuits should be a last resort for people hurt by business. Suing a company is expensive, complicated, and time-consuming, and it rarely makes victims whole.

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