The World in U.S. Courts: Fall 2013 - Alien Tort Statute (ATS)
The United States Court of Appeals in New York affirmed dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction of a human rights violation claim asserted under the Alien Tort Statute. The defendants were South African subsidiaries of DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and IBM. Plaintiff, on behalf of a putative class of similarly situated South Africans, claimed that defendants aided and abetted violations of international law by selling cars to the South African government that were used to facilitate apartheid. Citing Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 133 S.Ct. 1659 (2013), the court held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claims because they solely concerned acts and events that occurred outside the United States, in the territory of another sovereign state. The court rejected plaintiff’s argument that allegations of steps taken in the United States to circumvent a sanctions regime were sufficient to bring the claims within the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. Because the violations of international law occurred abroad, the court lacked jurisdiction over the claims.