Court of Appeals Dismisses ATS and TVPA Claims, Finding Alleged Coordination of Illegal Activities From the U.S. Insufficient to Support ATS Jurisdiction

The World in U.S. Courts: Fall 2014 - Alien Tort Statute (ATS)/Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA)/Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA)/Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA) | July.24.2014

Cardona v. Chiquita Brands International, Inc., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, July 24, 2014

More than four thousand Colombians brought an action against various entities associated with the banana giant Chiquita alleging in claims under the ATS and TVPA that they suffered torture, personal injury, and death as a result of Chiquita's alleged collaboration with paramilitary forces in Colombia.

The Court of Appeals first disposed of the TVPA claim, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 held that the TVPA could only support claims made against natural persons, not corporations.  As to the plaintiffs' ATS claims, the Court applied the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 Kiobel decision, which found no general extraterritorial applicability of the statute and held that where alleged conduct occurred outside the U.S., ATS jurisdiction would be limited to claims that nonetheless "touch and concern the territory of the United States . . . with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application."  The Court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the status of the primary Chiquita defendant as a U.S. corporation was sufficient to confer ATS jurisdiction, and affirmed dismissal of the complaint.  In so doing, the Court rejected the argument of a dissenting judge that the ATS could reach claims that a U.S. actor, from the U.S., orchestrated an alleged campaign of torture abroad.

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