Oral argument: Feb. 28, 2012
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Sep. 17, 2010)
ALIEN TORT STATUTE, CORPORATIONS, INTERNATIONAL LAW, TORT LIABILITY
Petitioners Esther Kiobel and others, on behalf of a class of residents of the Ogoni region in Nigeria, assert that Respondent Royal Dutch Petroleum Company is liable under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”) of aiding and abetting the Nigerian government in conducting arbitrary arrests and detentions, crimes against humanity, and torture. On appeal, the Second Circuit raised the question of subject matter jurisdiction, and held that the ATS does not provide a cause of action against corporations for these three alleged violations of international law. The parties now disagree over whether the question of corporate liability is jurisdictional or substantive, and whether corporations can be held liable for the alleged violations under the ATS. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case may affect the interests of American corporations with overseas operations, and may have an impact on the United States government’s relationships with foreign nations.