abusesaffiliationarrow-downarrow-leftarrow-rightarrow-upattack-typeburgerchevron-downchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-upClock iconclosedeletedevelopment-povertydiscriminationdollardownloademailenvironmentexternal-linkfacebookfiltergenderglobegroupshealthC4067174-3DD9-4B9E-AD64-284FDAAE6338@1xinformation-outlineinformationinstagraminvestment-trade-globalisationissueslabourlanguagesShapeCombined Shapeline, chart, up, arrow, graphLinkedInlocationmap-pinminusnewsorganisationotheroverviewpluspreviewArtboard 185profilerefreshIconnewssearchsecurityPathStock downStock steadyStock uptagticktooltiptwitteruniversalityweb

This page is not available in Italiano and is being displayed in English


15 Dic 2019

Lawsuit against Apple, Google, Tesla, and others (re child labour, DRC)


Date lawsuit was filed
15 Dic 2019
Location of Filing: Stati Uniti d'America
Location of Incident: Congo (Repubblica Democratica del)
Type of Litigation: Transnational


Apple Stati Uniti d'America Technology, telecom & electronics, Internet & social media, Entertainment, Software & Services
Dell Stati Uniti d'America Technology, telecom & electronics
Google (part of Alphabet) Stati Uniti d'America Technology: General, Advertising & marketing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Finance & banking, Entertainment, Internet & social media
Microsoft Stati Uniti d'America Technology: General, Internet & social media
Umicore Belgio Chemical: General
Alphabet Stati Uniti d'America Diversified/Conglomerates
Tesla Stati Uniti d'America Automobile & other motor vehicles
Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) Lussemburgo Mining
Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Co. Ltd. Cina Mining, Metals & steel


Snapshot: In 2019, IRAdvocates, a US-based NGO filed a class action lawsuit against Apple, Google, Tesla, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Dell alleging the corporations profited from child labour in their cobalt supply chains in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Plaintiffs are either guardians of children killed in cobalt mining tunnels or children who were maimed while working in the mines.

Legal Argument

IRAdvocates, a US-based NGO, filed a federal class action lawsuit against Apple, Google, Alphabet, Microsoft, Dell, and Tesla. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 14 plaintiffs who are either guardians of children killed in tunnel or walls collapses while mining cobalt in the DRC, or are children who were maimed in such accidents. All plaintiffs are representative of a larger class of unnamed children who have faced similar injuries from mining hazards. All defendants make up a large portion of buyers in the cobalt market. The plaintiffs assert claims for forced child labour in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. They also seek relief based on common law claims of unjust enrichment, negligent supervision, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They request that the Court order the defendants to create a fund to contribute to the appropriate medical care of the plaintiffs and other unnamed children who were injured while mining cobalt.

In their motion to dismiss, the companies contend that under the definitions contained in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), “an entire global supply chain is not a ‘venture’”. The companies further claim that the maimed and dead child miners were not “forced” into labour which they said only encompasses labour that is compelled by direct threats of force or harm from the employer, and not labour that is compelled by other circumstances, such as economic pressure. Finally, the companies claim they did not have “requisite knowledge” of the abuses at the specific mining sites mentioned, and that “knowledge of a general problem in an industry...is insufficient” to prove they knew about the violations that had injured the plaintiffs.

Legal Proceeding

On 15 December 2019, plaintiffs filed a class action in the US District Court for the District of Columbia against Apple, Alphabet, Google, Dell, and Tesla.

On 25 August 2020, the defendants filed a motion in response, denying liability.

On 2 November 2021, the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the case, citing lack of standing, and incorrect reliance on the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). The Court noted that "it is not obvious that the civil-remedy portion of the TVPRA applies extraterritorially".

In early February 2022, the plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

In June 2022, Forbes disclosed that Nichols, a US District Court judge who dismissed the case, owned bonds in both Apple and Microsoft when he was initially assigned to the case. Subsequently, he acquired additional bonds in 2020 while the case was pending before him. Plaintiffs asked the US Court of Appeals to annul the District Court's decision on case dismissal owing to the judge's alleged conflict of interests. On 28 June, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the motion to annul Judge Nichols's decision should be denied. The court stated that "Neither Judge Nichols’s purchases of bonds issued by several appellees, nor his purchases of mutual funds or exchange-traded funds, resulted in violations" of Section 455, the section of the relevant US code that addresses the disqualification of judges.

According to International Rights Advocates, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is still separately looking into Nichols’s decision “on the merits” of the case. On 8 August 2022 International Rights Advocates filed the Appellants’ Opening Brief. The court held an oral argument on 8 December 2022. Defendants urged the Court to reject the lawsuit.

On 5 March 2024, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the appeal, saying the plaintiffs have not adequately alleged the tech companies participated in a venture under the TVPRA because there is no shared enterprise between the companies and the suppliers.

News Items

US court sides with Apple, Tesla, other tech companies over child labor in Africa, Reuters, 6 March 2024

Case updates, International Rights Advocates

"US court rules no conflict of interest in tech firms’ mining deaths case", Sebastian Klovig Skelton, Computer Weekly, 1 July 2022

"A Federal Judge Bought Apple And Microsoft Bonds While Overseeing A Case Against Them — Then Dismissed It", David Jeans, Forbes, 24 June 2022

Mining deaths lawsuit against major tech companies dismissed, Computer Weekly, 5 Nov 2021

Human rights activist “forced to flee DRC” over child cobalt mining lawsuit, Guardian, 10 Mar 2020

The Mighty Apple, Google,Tesla, Dell, and Microsoft in “the dock”- A look at the child labour lawsuit, 13 Jan 2020, OpinioJuris

Glencore statement in response to IRAdvocates’ lawsuit, Glencore, 17 Dec 2019

US tech giants sued over DRC cobalt mine child labour deaths, Al Jazeera, 17 Dec 2019

Tesla, Apple, among firms accused of aiding child labor in Congo, Reuters, 16 Dec 2019

Apple and Google named in US lawsuit over Congolese child cobalt mining deaths, The Guardian, 16 Dec 2019

IRAdvocates filed forced child labor case against tech giants Apple, Alphabet, Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla for aiding and abetting extreme abuse of children mining cobalt in DRC, IRAdvocates, 15 Dec 2019

Is your phone tainted by the misery of the 35,000 children in Congo’s mines?, Siddharth Kara, 12 Oct 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo: “This is what we die for”: human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo power the global trade in cobalt, Amnesty International, 19 Jan 2016

Court Documents

Judge Carl J. Nichols' opinion dismissing the case, 2 Nov 2021

Class complaint for injunctive relief and damages, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 15 Dec 2019

Sequenza temporale