Nestlé, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland lawsuit (re Côte d'Ivoire)

child labour Côte d’Ivoire Credit - International Labour Rights Forum

In 2005, three individuals from an NGO filed a class action lawsuit in the USA against Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland, and Cargill alleging they had been trafficked from Mali as child slaves and forced to work in the Côte d'Ivoire on plantations which supplied the companies. They further alleged the companies aided and abetted their torture and ill treatment at these plantations. The case is ongoing. 


Pour la version française de ce profil, cliquez ici.

On 14 July 2005, three individuals from Mali and Global Exchange (a human rights organization) filed a class action lawsuit in California federal court against Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill.  The individuals alleged they had been trafficked from Mali as child slaves and forced to work harvesting and/or cultivating cocoa beans on farms in Côte d’Ivoire.  The plaintiffs allege that they were forced to work long hours without pay, kept in locked rooms when not working and suffered severe physical abuse by those guarding them.  The plaintiffs allege that the companies aided, abetted or failed to prevent the torture, forced labour and arbitrary detention that they had suffered as child slaves.  The lawsuit alleges violations of the Alien Tort Claims Act, Torture Victim Protection Act, US Constitution and California state law.  The plaintiffs further claimed that the companies’ economic benefit from the labour of children violates international labour conventions, the law of nations and customary international law. 

In August 2005, Nestlé filed a motion to force the disclosure of the names of the former child slave plaintiffs, which was opposed by the plaintiffs.  In addition, the defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the case.  On 27 July 2006, the court ordered further briefings to be filed on various issues related to aiding and abetting standards.  On 8 September 2010 the court dismissed the case finding that the case could not be brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  The court concluded that existing authorities did not demonstrate that corporate liability was sufficiently well established and universal to satisfy a claim under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal.  In December 2013, a federal appeals court overturned the 2010 ruling and allowed the plaintiffs to refile the lawsuit.  In September 2014, the federal appeals court replaced its December 2013 opinion with an expanded one reversing and vacating the lower court's dismissal of the case. The new opinion sets forth expanded reasoning for allowing the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to show the connection their claims have to the United States to address the US Supreme Court's holding in Kiobel v. Shell. The court found that the plaintiffs have standing to bring their Alien Tort case because of the universal prohibition against slavery.  In September 2015, the defendants petitioned the Supreme Court to throw out the federal appeals court’s ruling and want it to decide if companies are subject to liability under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  In January 2016 the Supreme Court declined to hear the companies' appeal.

In July 2016, the plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint.  In March 2017, a judge dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the plaintiffs could not sue over forced labour in Côte d'Ivoire when they could not prove that there was conduct by the companies in the US linked to the wrongdoing overseas.  On 30 March 2017, the plaintiffs filed an appeal, arguing that Nestle's and Cargill's decisions to give the cocoa farmers money and technical support were made at the companies’ US headquarters and, therefore, the lawsuit had a sufficient link to the US. On 23 October 2018, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal allowed the lawsuit against Nestle and Cargill under the Alien Tort Statute to proceed.

In January 2020, the US Supreme Court signaled interest in hearing the case when they asked the Trump administration for advice on whether they should take the case. Nestlé and Cargill have requested that the Supreme Court end the suit against them.   

-"U.S. Supreme Court signals interest in child-slavery cocoa lawsuit," Bloomberg, 14 Jan 2020
- "Chocolatiers Face Tough Slog in Slave Labor Appeal", Helen Christophi, Courthouse News, 7 June 2018 
- "Nestle, Cargill Win Dismissal of Ex-Child Slaves' Lawsuit", Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg, 10 Mar 2017
- "Child Slavery Claims Against Nestle, Cargill Get One More Chance", Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg, 9 Jan 2017
- "US Supreme Ct. rejects Nestlé, ADM & Cargill's bid to dismiss Alien Tort case alleging complicity in forced child labour", Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, 11 Jan 2016
- "9th Circuit Digs Into Nestle Child Slavery Suit", Courthouse News Service (USA), 5 Sep 2014
Ivory Coast says its cocoa not tainted by slavery”, Reuters, 13 Feb 2006
-[FR] « Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland et Cargill attaquées pour travail des enfants » GRESEA, 28 septembre 2005
- “U.S. companies sued in Calif. over child labor claims”, Reuters, 16 Jul 2005

- Nestlé S.A.: [PDF] The Cocoa Plan: Nestlé and sustainable cocoa
- Archer Daniels Midland: [PDF] ADM Supports Responsible Cocoa Farming, 7 Feb 2006
- Cargill: Responsible Cocoa Sourcing and Production

- Global Exchange: “Nestle Taken to Court for Trafficking, Torture, and Beatings of Child Laborers on West African Cocoa Farms,” 03 Feb 2006

International Rights Advocates (co-counsel for plaintiffs):
- Nestle, Archers Daniel Midland, and Cargill [summary of case, includes links to certain legal documents]
Plaintiffs' Notice of Appeal, 30 Mar 2017
- IRAdvocates file second amended complaint in Nestle in an attempt to bring justice to former child slaves in West Africa, 15 Jul 2016
- Amended complaint, 14 Jul 2016

Doe v. Nestlé et al., US District Court, Central District of California
- [PDF] Order granting defendants' motion to dismiss, 2 Mar 2017

Doe v. Nestlé et al., US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- [PDF] Order reversing lower court's dismissal, 4 Sep 2014
- [PDF] Brief of amicus curiae EarthRights International in support of Plaintiffs/Appellants, 1 Jul 2011
- [PDF] Defendants' answering brief, 30 Sep 2011
- [PDF] Plaintiffs' opening brief, 24 Jun 2011

Doe v. Nestlé et al., US District Court, Central District of California
- [PDF] Order granting defendants' motion to dismiss, 8 Sep 2010
- [PDF] First amended complaint, 22 Jul 2009
- [PDF] Declaration of Herman N. (Rusty) Johnson in Support of Plaintiffs’ Supplementary Brief [with information about company sourcing practices], 9 Aug 2006
- [PDF] Defendants’ Joint Opening Brief in Response to Court’s July 27, 2006 Order, 9 Aug 2006
- [PDF] Declaration in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, 2 Jan 2006
- [PDF] Individuals (John Doe I, II & III) and Global Exchange, v. Nestle, Archers Daniels Midland, Cargill, et al. , 14 Jul 2005 [complaint]

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

20 January 2020

USA: Supreme Court seeks to protect companies from lawsuits by victims of abuse overseas in case against chocolate makers over alleged child slavery

Author: Bloomberg

"U.S. Supreme Court signals interest in child-slavery cocoa lawsuit", 14 Jan 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court signaled interest in giving companies a broader shield from lawsuits by victims of overseas atrocities...on a case stemming from child slavery on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. 

Nestle’s U.S. unit and Cargill Inc. are urging the court to end a suit that accuses them of complicity in the use of forced child labor...The Supreme Court on Monday asked U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco to advise whether the justices should hear the companies’ appeals.

The case would test a centuries-old law, the 1789 Alien Tort Statute...The court decided in 2013 that the law generally doesn't apply beyond U.S. borders, and in 2018 that foreign corporations can't be sued in that context. 

But a federal appeals court said the allegations against Nestle and Cargill might have enough of a U.S. connection if the plaintiffs amended their lawsuit to provide more specifics.

“The allegations paint a picture of overseas slave labor that defendants perpetuated from headquarters in the United States,”...

…The companies are accused of aiding and abetting slave labor by giving Ivory Coast farmers financial assistance in the expectation that cocoa prices would stay low. The suit alleges the companies were fully aware that child slavery was being used…

Cargill said the plaintiffs “do not allege they worked on a farm from which Cargill purchased cocoa or to which Cargill provided any form of assistance.”…


Read the full post here

7 November 2018

Commentary: Chocolate makers facing lawsuits over failure to effectively address use of child labour in cocoa supply chains

Author: Rosa Furneaux, Mother Jones (USA)

"Your Halloween Candy’s Hidden Ingredient: Child Slave Labor", 31 Oct 2018

...[A] recent ruling by the US Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit in a long-running lawsuit against Nestlé and...Cargill...alleges the companies aided and abetted child slavery on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast...The lawsuit is just one of several legal actions against chocolate giants in recent years involving human-rights abuses in West Africa...[T]hree American plaintiffs brought separate suits against Mars, Nestlé, and Hershey’s..., and argued that the companies were violating California consumer protection laws by failing to disclose that their products’ supply chain may involve child slave labor...[T]he Ninth Circuit upheld the Mars dismissal...The fates of the suits against Nestlé and Hershey’s are yet to be decided...

Nestlé, like most other large chocolate manufacturers, sources some of its beans from the Ivory Coast, making it difficult to remove the risk that their supply chain is infected with child labor...Nestlé...insists it is working to tackle the problem...According to Nestlé’s website, the company...has helped support families so they can afford to keep their kids in school rather than sending them off to work.  Nestlé also has put into place a monitoring system...and report the findings back to the company and its suppliers...The chocolate makers’ financial outlays to prevent child exploitation don’t necessarily reflect progress on the ground...

Read the full post here

Company response
+ Français - Hide

Author: Intellivoire (Côte d''Ivoire)

« Travail d’esclaves d’enfants Maliens en Côte d’Ivoire : Une Cour d’ appel aux États-Unis rétablit une action en justice contre Nestlé et Cargill », 25 Octobre 2018

Une cour d’appel fédérale de San Francisco a rétabli aujourd’hui pour la deuxième fois sa poursuite en justice contre [Nestlé USA et Cargill] par six maliens qui auraient été contraints de travailler comme enfants esclaves dans des plantations de cacao en Côte d’Ivoire...

Les six travailleurs anonymes allèguent que les sociétés américaines ont notamment donné aux producteurs de cacao et aux coopératives une somme supplémentaire équivalant à des pots-de-vin et envoyé des inspecteurs de leurs bureaux américains en Côte d’Ivoire, qui ont rendu compte des arrangements financiers...

nestlé cargil... ont tous deux publié un communiqué déclarant qu'ils envisageaient de faire appel et qu'ils ne toléraient pas le travail des enfants esclaves...

Nestlé USA, basé en Virginie, et Cargill, basé au Minnesota, ont tous deux publié un communiqué déclarant qu’ils envisageaient de faire appel et qu’ils ne toléraient pas le travail des enfants esclaves.

Pour lire plus

Nestlé USA, basé en Virginie, et Cargill, basé au Minnesota, ont tous deux publié un communiqué déclarant qu’ils envisageaient de faire appel et qu’ils ne toléraient pas le travail des enfants esclaves.

Pour lire plus

Read the full post here

23 October 2018

Doe v. Nestle, Opinion on dismissal of claims

Author: Judge D.W. Nelson, Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (USA)

Download the full document here

23 October 2018

October 23, 2018 Court of Appeals Finds Nestle and Cargill can be Liable under Alien Tort Statute for Child Slavery in Cote d'Ivoire

Author: International Rights Advocates

A three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on October 23, 2018 that the IRAdvocates’ lawsuit on behalf of former child slaves against Nestle and Cargill for using child slaves in Cote D’Ivoire to harvest cocoa can proceed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. § 1350. The Court solidly rejected the companies’...argument that under new decisions by the Supreme Court no cases can be brought where the actual harmful act..occurred outside of the United States.  The Court...held that Plaintiffs’ case can proceed based on the legal theory that these two...multinationals “aided and abetted” child slavery from their corporate offices in the United
States by continuing across many years to knowingly purchase cocoa that was harvested by child slaves and providing funds, supplies, training and other assistance to the plantations in Cote D’Ivoire that the companies knew were using child slaves... There are several possible legal hurdles remaining, including the companies seeking further review by the Supreme Court...[T]he legal team will soon be filing a new complaint against Nestle, Cargill and other major companies for knowingly benefitting from the trafficking of children into slavery to harvest cocoa for these companies...

Read the full post here

23 October 2018

U.S. appeals court revives Nestle child slavery lawsuit

Author: Tina Bellon, Reuters

A U.S. federal appeals court on Tuesday reinstated a lawsuit by a group of former child slaves accusing the U.S. unit of Nestle SA...and Cargill...of perpetuating child slavery at Ivory Coast cocoa farms.  Judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, said in a unanimous decision that the group could proceed with its claims despite the alleged abuses having occurred overseas...The court did not rule on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims.  The plaintiffs, originally from Mali, are contending that the companies aided and abetted human rights violations through their active involvement in purchasing cocoa from Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire).  They originally sued Nestle USA, Archer-Daniels-Midland Co and Cargill...Archer-Daniels-Midland was dismissed from the lawsuit in 2016...The companies have denied the allegations.  Nestle said in a statement...that it had explicit policies against child labor and was working to combat the global problem.  The company said it disagreed with the 9th Circuit decision and was assessing appellate options.  Cargill did not reply to a request for comment...The 9th Circuit said...the alleged violations fell outside the scope of the companies’ ordinary business conduct.  The former child slaves alleged that the companies provided financial and technical assistance to local farmers to guarantee the cheapest source of cocoa...

Read the full post here

8 June 2018

US court to allow lawsuit against Nestlé & Cargill over alleged complicity in child slavery in cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire to proceed

Author: Helen Christophi, Courthouse News (USA)

"Chocolatiers Face Tough Slog in Slave Labor Appeal", 7 June 2018

Revisiting a controversial case that split appeals courts three years ago, a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel indicated Thursday it will keep alive a lawsuit accusing Nestle and Cargill of aiding and abetting child slavery to get cheap cocoa.  The six plaintiffs, identified in the lawsuit only as John Doe, were kidnapped from Mali as children in the 1990s and forced to work on Ivory Coast cocoa plantations for up to 14 hours per day, six days per week.  They say they were given only scraps of food to eat and beaten and whipped with tree branches...They also claim Nestle and Cargill representatives visited the farms several times each year and knew the farmers used child slave labor.  Circuit Judge Morgan Christen...appeared to agree the plaintiffs can sue Nestle and Cargill under the Alien Tort Statute for giving their slave masters personal spending money to guarantee access to cheaply produced cocoa beans.  Christen’s concern over the spending money came in response to U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson’s March 2017 decision to dismiss the case for failing to allege domestic conduct sufficient to sue under the statute...At issue is which standard the plaintiffs must satisfy to sue Nestle and Cargill under the Alien Tort Statute.  The plaintiffs...argue Nestle’s and Cargill’s decisions to aid and abet slavery touch and concern the United States because the decisions to give the farmers money and technical support were made at the defendants’ headquarters here...

Read the full post here

30 March 2017

Plaintiffs' Notice of Appeal

Author: Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman LLP & International Rights Advocates

[Full text of Notice of Appeal]

Download the full document here

14 March 2017

US judge dismisses lawsuit against Nestlé, Cargill & Archer Daniels Midland over alleged child slavery in Côte d'Ivoire

Author: Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg (USA)

"Nestle, Cargill Win Dismissal of Ex-Child Slaves' Lawsuit", 10 Mar 2017

Nestle SA’s U.S. unit and Cargill Inc. won dismissal of a lawsuit by six former child slaves from Mali who sought to hold the cocoa importers liable for their captivity and mistreatment on farms in neighboring Ivory Coast.  A Los Angeles federal judge agreed with the companies that the former laborers couldn’t sue in the U.S. over wrongdoing that occurred in Africa and that the former child slaves had failed to show that any domestic conduct by the two companies was linked to the use of forced labor at their overseas suppliers...The former child slaves claimed U.S. cocoa importers knew forced labor was being used in the Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer.  The companies nevertheless provided farmers there with funding, supplies and training, they said...“This ruling is an important statement regarding the jurisdictional limits on these transnational tort lawsuits, which simply do not belong in the U.S. courts," Ted Boutrous Jr., a lawyer for Nestle said...More than 1 million children, some as young as 5, pick cocoa pods and then crack them open in the Ivory Coast and perform other manual labor under sometimes hazardous conditions...

Read the full post here

2 March 2017

John Nestlé, et al. v Nestlé, S.A., et al.

Author: Stephen V. Wilson, U.S. District Judge, Central District of California

[Full text of the decision]

Download the full document here