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17 Jun 2021

International Rights Advocates

U.S. Supreme Court Dismisses Claims Against Nestlé and Cargill and Remands to Trial Court

In 2005, International Rights Advocates sued Nestlé and Cargill on behalf of six children trafficked from Mali to Cote D’Ivoire to forcibly harvest cocoa under dangerous conditions. Today, 16 years after the case was filed, the Supreme Court issued a heavily divided opinion with an unclear result in our child slavery case against Nestlé and Cargill under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The one certainty is that eight Justices agreed that the operative complaint did not satisfy the Supreme Court’s standard set in the Kiobel case for extraterritorial application of the ATS. Kiobel requires that the allegations “touch and concern” the territory of the United States. Justice Alito dissented saying the Court should not have even reached the Kiobel question and instead should have remanded the case. Justice Thomas’s majority opinion found that the current complaint alleging Nestlé and Cargill made major operational decisions from the United States that supported the system of child slavey harvesting cocoa in Cote D’Ivoire were not sufficient.

The case was remanded to the trial court, where Plaintiffs intend to seek leave to amend their complaint to satisfy the majority’s articulation of the Kiobel standard...

There appeared to be a majority consensus that corporations can be sued under international law, with conservative Justices Gorsuch and Alito explicitly making this point. Only two Justices, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, joined Justice Thomas in holding that Plaintiffs have not stated a cause of action for aiding and abetting child slavery because such a claim did not exist in 1789 when the ATS was enacted. Terry Collingsworth, Executive Director of International Rights Advocates stated that “out of this divided opinion, we still hold hope that Plaintiffs will get their day in Court. None of the Justices and none of parties deny that children like the Plaintiffs continue to suffer the horrors of trafficking and slavery. We do hope that rather than fight this for several more years and spend additional millions of dollars on lawyers, lobbyists and public relations firms, Nestlé and Cargill decide to use their power and resources to finally stop relying on child labor, as they promised to do so when they signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol in 2001.”...