What Remains of the Alien Tort Statute after Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe?

Petch, Clara | March 31, 2023

Abstract The Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which provides U.S. courts with jurisdiction over violations of the law of nations, has been a crucial mechanism for obtaining redress for international human rights abuses. However, over the past four decades, the Supreme Court has continually chipped away at the jurisdictional reach of the statute. Most recently, in June 2021, the Supreme Court addressed the scope of the ATS in two consolidated cases: Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe and Cargill, Inc. v. Doe. Plaintiffs were former trafficked and enslaved children forced to work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast under grueling conditions. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants Nestlé and Cargill aided and abetted the plantations through the provision of financial and technical resources in violation of the ATS. However, the Court dismissed the complaint as an impermissible extraterritorial application of the statute, failing to resolve the issue of whether aiding and abetting an international law violation is a valid cause of action under the ATS. Several other questions regarding the defendants subject to suit and the viable causes of action under the statute also remain unanswered. It is therefore worth taking the time to reassess the scope of the ATS and determine which avenues are still available to plaintiffs seeking accountability for international injuries. This Note explores the contours of the current ATS framework and aims to evaluate which claims may plausibly still survive the full set of ATS precedent.