Jun 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

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

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.

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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