A three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in October 2018 that a lawsuit against Nestlé and Cargill brought on behalf of former child slaves can proceed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 USC § 1350.
The court rejected the companies’ argument that under new decisions by the Supreme Court no cases can be brought where the harmful act, in this case the enslaving of children to harvest cocoa, occurred outside of the US.
The court held that plaintiffs’ case can proceed based on the legal theory that the two multinationals “aided and abetted” child slavery by continuing, over many years, to knowingly purchase cocoa that was harvested by child slaves and providing funds, supplies, training and other assistance to the plantations in Côte d’Ivoire that the companies knew were using child slaves.
Nestlé and Cargill, along with most other major cocoa companies, recently admitted that they had failed to meet the deadlines they themselves set to voluntarily stop using child slaves by 2020 in Côte d’Ivoire under the Harkin-Engels protocol. They did not set a new deadline, said IRAdvocates.
“This case remains one of the only viable options for forcing the companies to do what they promised back in 2001 to do when they signed the protocol – stop knowingly profiting from child slavery,” said IRAdvocates.
There are several possible legal hurdles remaining, including the companies seeking further review by the Supreme Court, but IRAdvocates, along with their co-counsel Paul Hoffman and Catherine Sweetser at Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP, said they are committed to obtaining long-delayed justice for the child slaves that they claim Nestlé and Cargill knowingly have profited from.
Assuming there is no further appellate review, the plaintiffs are anxious to being preparing for trial in a case that was first filed in 2005. “Nestlé and Cargill executives should soon be testifying under oath about their role in perpetuating child slavery for years,” said IRAdvocates. “To assure accountability, the legal team will soon be filing a new complaint against Nestlé, Cargill and other major companies for knowingly benefitting from the trafficking of children into slavery to harvest cocoa for these companies.”