Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe

141 S. Ct. 1931 (2021)

Firm: Hogan Lovells

Issue Area: International Human Rights

Case summary

Hogan Lovells represented Nestlé in a human rights lawsuit alleging that Nestlé's supply chain relied on child slavery and kidnapping. Plaintiffs, formerly enslaved children, alleged that Nestlé's attempts to find the least expensive labor on the Ivory Coast resulted in a system built on child slavery. 

Relying on arguments made by lawyers from Hogan Lovells, the Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs needed to allege that Nestlé engaged in more than general corporate activity in the United States. The ruling makes it more difficult for victims of human rights abuses to seek justice from international corporations.

Excerpt from the firm's work product

Hogan Lovells' brief argued that corporations profits should be the priority for the court: "Plaintiffs’ theory would also place U.S. firms at a competitive disadvantage compared to companies in countries without an [Alien Tort Statute] analogue, and it would discourage foreign investment in the United States by foreign firms concerned about triggering expansive ATS liability.

"Whether to impose these heavy burdens on U.S. companies and Côte d’Ivoire is a question for the political branches. That is particularly true here, as adopting Plaintiffs’ policy preferences would 'discourage[ ] American corporations from investing abroad' in a region with 'a history of alleged human rights violations,' thereby 'deter[ring] the active corporate investment' the Executive Branch has sought to encourage to combat those abuses. Jesner, 138 S. Ct. at 1406 (plurality opinion) (emphasis added). Forced child labor is wrong and should be vehemently opposed. But how to oppose it is something that the Executive and Congress should decide systemically and comprehensively—not the courts through ad hoc holdings in private-party money damages ATS lawsuits."

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