Child Slavery Lawsuits Against Nestlé and Cargill Have Been Dismissed by the US Supreme Court
The US Supreme Court overturned a decision that enabled numerous individuals to sue food giants Nestlé USA and Cargill for alleged child enslavement, restricting corporate responsibility under the Alien Tort Statute.
More specifically, in Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe I, which was combined with Cargill, Inc. v. Doe I, was decided by the Supreme Court. The anonymous plaintiffs in these instances claimed that Nestlé and Cargill were involved in the exploitation of child slave labour on Ivory Coast cocoa fields.
Even though Nestlé and Cargill did not control the farms, they supplied them with significant resources, including training, tools, and cash. The two businesses were given exclusive rights to acquire cocoa from the plantations in exchange for this. In an 8-1 judgment, the Supreme Court ruled Nestlé and Cargill not responsible for human rights violations on the farm.
The unidentified plaintiffs filed their lawsuits under the Alien Tort Statute. Foreign nationals can sue in US courts for human rights violations committed abroad under the Alien Tort Statute.
The purpose of this law, according to the Supreme Court in Jesner v. Arab Bank, was to “promote harmony in international relations by ensuring foreign plaintiffs a remedy for international-law violations in circumstances where the lack of such a remedy might provoke foreign nations to hold the United States accountable.”
To decide that US law should be applied extraterritorially under the Alien Tort Legislation, the Supreme Court must establish that the statute expressly authorizes such application and that conduct occurred within the United States. Only broad corporate decision-making, according to the plaintiffs, took place in the United States in this case.
As a result, the Supreme Court determined that applying the Alien Tort Statute to Nestlé and Cargill's alleged behaviour in this case would be an unconstitutional, extraterritorial application.
Justice Thomas, supported by Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, argued that the statute's permissible uses of extraterritoriality should be limited to those that would have been recognized in the eighteenth century. Five of the remaining members of the court agreed on the case's outcome, but the court could not reach a consensus on whether the statute's causes of action should be limited.
Moreover, this case will prohibit future human rights violations against companies in which defendants may simply claim that "wide corporate decision making" happened in the United States.