Kiobel, et al. v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

Term: 2011 Term
Oral Argument Date: February 28, 2012
Vote: Reargument Ordered

Question(s) Presented

1. Whether the issue of corporate civil tort liability under the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS"), 28 U.S.C. § 1350, is a merits question, as it has been treated by all courts prior to the decision below, or an issue of subject matter jurisdiction, as the court of appeals held for the first time.

2. Whether corporations are immune from tort liability for violations of the law of nations such as torture, extrajudicial executions or genocide, as the court of appeals decisions provides, or if corporations may be sued in the same manner as any other private party defendant under the ATS for such egregious violations, as the Eleventh Circuit has explicitly held.  

Supplemental Question Presented:

Whether and under what circumstances the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, allows courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States.

NCLC's Position

NCLC filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to warn that efforts to expand civil liability under the 1789 Alien Tort Statute (ATS) would interfere with U.S. foreign relations, and would have severe economic consequences not just on the domestic economy - by discouraging investment by foreign companies reluctant to be exposed to American-style litigation - but also on developing and post-conflict countries, particularly those where the U.S. government has enlisted the aid of American businesses to "constructively engage" them through commerce. 

Case Outcome

The U.S. Supreme Court ordered supplemental briefing and re-argument during the 2012 Term. 

Procedural History

Cert. granted 10/17/11. U.S. Chamber letters sent to the White House, the Solicitor General, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of State, and the Defense DepartmentNCLC merits amicus brief filed 2/3/12. Argued 2/28/12.  Supplemental briefing and reargument ordered 3/5/12. 

Case Documents