Supreme Court throws out child slave labor suit against Nestlé, Cargill

·2 min read

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Nestlé USA and Cargill in a lawsuit that accused the corporations of helping perpetuate child slave labor in the Ivory Coast, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The ruling is yet another example of courts imposing "strict limits on lawsuits brought in federal court based on human rights abuses abroad," notes the New York Times.

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The state of play: The lawsuit was brought by a group of six citizens of Mali who accused the corporations of trafficking them into slavery as children, per the Times.

  • Nestlé and Cargill "maintain a system of child slavery and forced labor in their Ivory Coast supply chain as a matter of corporate policy to gain a competitive advantage in the U.S. market,” Paul L. Hoffman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in December, according to the Times.

Both companies have denied engaging in child labor.

  • "Nestlé never engaged in the egregious child labor alleged in this suit, and we remain unwavering in our dedication to combating child labor in the cocoa industry," a Nestlé spokesperson said, per Reuters.

  • "We do not tolerate the use of child labor in our operations or supply chains and we are working every day to prevent it," a Cargill spokesperson said in a statement, per Reuters.

The big picture: Thursday's 8-1 vote by the Supreme Court "curbs" the reach of the Alien Tort Statute, a law which allows foreigners to bring lawsuits to U.S. federal courts over international law violations, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • The decision, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, said the lawsuit had not demonstrated a strong enough connection between the alleged human rights abuses and the U.S.

  • "Nearly all the conduct that they say aided and abetted forced labor - providing training, fertilizer tools, and cash to overseas farms - occurred in Ivory Coast," Thomas wrote in the ruling.

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