District Court Holds That Corporations May Be Liable Under the ATS, Clarifying Muddled Law in the Second Circuit

The World in U.S. Courts: Summer 2014 - Alien Tort Statute (ATS)/Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA)/Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA)/Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA) | April.17.2014

Ntsebeza v. Ford Motor Company, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, April 17, 2014

Victims of apartheid brought ATS, TVPA, and VTVPA claims in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against a number of U.S. and non-U.S. corporations alleged to have aided and abetted violations of customary international law by the South African Government. At issue in this opinion was the question whether corporations may be sued under the ATS. Four U.S. circuit courts of appeals had concluded that corporations may be so sued. Alone in deciding the question otherwise was the New York District Court’s own circuit, in a decision which predated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum and Daimler AG v. Bauman (both of which were decided in the context of ATS cases). In this opinion, the District Court concludes that those intervening decisions of the Supreme Court as well as of the Second Circuit itself have left the question open for a fresh review. On this basis, and on the basis of policy considerations cited by other courts with which the judge clearly agrees, the District Court concludes that corporations may be sued under the ATS.

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