Alien Tort Statute Cases Resulting in Plaintiff Victories

This post is an attempt to catalog all Alien Tort Statute (28 U.S.C. § 1350) cases that have resulted in something other than complete failure for the plaintiffs who have brought the claims.

Most ATS victories have been default judgments against individual defendants, with a few claims against individual government officials and states being decided on the merits. Collection of judgments awarded under the ATS is a low probability game, although a few lucky plaintiffs have succeeded. Most judgments remain moral victories.

To date, only two judgments have been entered against corporate defendants, with one judgment entered by default and one after a jury trial.

There have been maybe a dozen settlements reached in ATS cases against corporate defendants; many of these settlements are confidential, but of the ones that have been revealed, it appears to be a fairly even split between settlements that appear to have favored the plaintiffs and settlements that appear to have favored the defendants.

In other words, the argument that ATS litigation is financially ruinous for international businesses or a serious impediment to multinational operations is vastly overstated. Tort claims under the ATS make up an infinitesimal fraction of corporate litigation budgets worldwide.

A. Successful ATS Claims Against Non-Corporate Entities, With Decisions Reached Other than by Default

  1. Jansen v. The Brigantine Vrow Christina Magdalena (D.S.C. 1794),  aff’d by Talbot v. Jansen, 3. U.S. 133 (1795). Ship owned by a Dutch citizen was captured by an American citizen who had attempted to renounce his American citizenship in order to take commission from France as a privateer. After co-capturer Talbot intervened and challenged the district court’s jurisdiction — based, in part, of the inability of a U.S. court to be acting as a prize court over a captor alleging to hold a French commission — the court was required to consider, in the absence of prize jurisdiction, “[w]hether this court has any and what jurisdiction relative to matters arising on the high seas.” The court concluded that it did have jurisdiction, and cited to both its admiralty jurisdiction and the ATS in support of this: “[t]he court shall have exclusive original cognizance in all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; and concurrent jurisdiction with the courts of the several states, or the circuit courts of the United States (as the case may be) where an alien sues for a tort only in violation of the law of nations, or a treaty of the United States.” The district court then found that although the capture was not piracy, it was in violation of both the law of nations and the U.S.’s treaty with Holland, and in doing so the defendants’ acts risked the U.S.’s neutral character in the conflict, and so found for the Dutch plaintiff. On appeal to the Supreme Court, France argued that it was a breach of international law for the U.S. to adjudicate a dispute between Holland and France arising from an act occurring on the high seas. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision, and Justice Iredell held that “[t]he general law of nations are enquirable and may be proceeded against in any nation where no special exemption can be maintained, either by the general law of nations, or by some treaty which forbids or restrains it[.]” Iredell concluded that “[t]his is so palpable a violation of our own law (I mean the common law, of which the law of nations is a part,…) as well as of the law of nations generally; that I cannot entertain the slightest doubt, but that … the District Court had jurisdiction.”
  2. Bolchos v. Darrell, 3 F. Cas. 810 (D.S.C. 1795): Suit against French captain who captured a Spanish slave ship in 1794. Defendant was forced to return slaves or pay restitution. The district court concluded that it had jurisdiction to hear Bolchos’ suit, noting that “as the 9th section of the judiciary act of congress gives this court concurrent jurisdiction with the state courts and circuit court of the United States where an alien sues for a tort, in violation of the law of nations, or a treaty of the United States, I dismiss all doubt upon” the question of jurisdiction.
  3. Adra v. Clift, 195 F.Supp. 857 (D.Md. 1961): Iraqi mother found in violation of law of nations by refusing to return custody of daughter to her father, and for forging passports for her to be admitted to U.S. However, the Lebanese father was denied relief as court found it to be in daughter’s best interest to remain with mother.
  4. In re Estate of Marcos Human Rights Litigation, 978 F.2d 493 (9th Cir. 1993): First ATS case to go to trial. Defendant liable to the class for over $766 million in compensatory damages, and $1.2 billion in exemplary damages.
  5. Abebe-Jira v. Negewo, 72 F.3d 844 (11th Cir. 1996): Bench Trial. Case against Ethiopian guard for torture and CITD, affirmed by the 11th Circuit. Plaintiffs each awarded plaintiff $200,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages. Also note that one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs was Harold Koh.
  6. Alejandre v. Republic of Cuba, 996 F. Supp. 1239 (S.D.Fla. 1997):* (AEDPA/TVPA) Punitive damages assessed in reference to punitives assessed for violations of international human rights law in ATS cases; “[j]udgment entered on behalf of Plaintiffs and against Defendants the Republic of Cuba and the Cuban Air Force for total compensatory damages of $49,927,911. Judgment entered for Plaintiffs and against the Defendant the Cuban Air Force (only) as punitive damages, the sum of One Hundred Thirty Seven Million, Seven Hundred Thousand Dollars ($137,700,000). Total compensatory and punitive damages awarded to Plaintiffs $187,627,911, for which sum execution issued against the Defendants Cuba and the Cuban Air Force and against any of their assets wherever situated.” Collection efforts are ongoing.
  7. Cabello v. Fernández Larios, 205 F.Supp.2d 1325 (S.D.Fla. 2002), aff’d in 402 F.3d 1148 (11th Cir. 2005): Jury verdict on Oct., 2003. Murder of Chilean economist by one of Pinochet’s military commanders, descendants sue for, inter alia, crimes against humanity and CITD. $3 million in compensatory damages ($2 mill. for extrajudicial killing, $1mil. for CAH), plus $1 million in punitive. So far, plaintiffs have recovered $200,000. (Also worth interest — 1th Cir. cited to ICCPR in its decision. It also found Larios could be indirectly liable under either a theory of aiding and abetting or conspiracy.) (Further, defendant in case is noted to have made what is quite possibly the creepiest threat I have ever heard: “I will caress the little pigeons.”)
  8. Arce v. Garcia, 434 F.3d 1254 (11th Cir. 2006): “The three plaintiffs in this case are Salvadoran refugees who were allegedly tortured by military personnel in El Salvador during a campaign of human rights violations by the Salvadoran military from 1979 to 1983; the two defendants were leaders in the Salvadoran military. All of the plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages under the Torture Victim Protection Act; two plaintiffs sought the same relief under the Alien Tort Claims Act. A jury awarded the plaintiffs a total of $54,600,000, and the court entered judgments accordingly. The defendants now appeal, contending that the statute of limitations bars the plaintiffs’ claims. We conclude, based on the doctrine of equitable tolling, that the claims are not time-barred.” Although the 11th Circuit reversed its decision initially, after finding the reversal was based on certain factual errors, the jury verdict was upheld in the entirety.
  9. Jean v. Dorelien, No. 03-20161 (S.D.Fla.) (verdict issued Feb. 23, 2007): $4.3 million verdict. ($580,000 recovered to date) (nearly $1mil recovered to date, out of Defendant’s lottery winnings?).
  10. Chavez v. Carranza, W.D. Tenn. No. 03-2932 M1/P (Nov. 18, 2005) (aff’d by 6th Cir., 17 Mar 2009): Jury verdict for $6 million against commander liable for crimes against humanity.
  11. M.C. v. Bianchi (consolidated cases) (E.D.PA 2011): Anthony Mark Bianchi was convicted of several federal felonies under 18 U.S.C. § 2423 for engaging in child sex trafficking/tourism. The plaintiffs in the consolidated cases were Moldovan minors, asserting claims against Bianchi under the ATS for sexual assault in violation of the law of nations. In March 2011, the district court dismissed Bianchi’s Motion to Dismiss the matter, and, at the time, I predicted that a reversal of the decision was inevitable. I underestimated, however, the defendant’s financial and practical interests in settling the cases (Bianchi was in jail, and was a millionaire who had assets that could be collected against). Shortly thereafter, Bianchi settled with the plaintiffs for $725,000.00. Also notable is the fact that the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the matter managed to turn international human rights abuses into a lucrative enterprise, collecting a comfortable 40% contingency fee out of the settlement proceeds.

B. Default Decisions Against Individual Defendants in ATS Cases 

  1. de Letelier v. Republic of Chile, 502 F.Supp. 259 (D.D.C. 1980). Tort claims brought as result of Chilean government’s bombing of diplomat’s car in Washington, DC. Default judgment against Chilean government. Court found that it had subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case “pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330, 1331, 1332(a)(3), 1343(1)-(2), 1350,” treating ATS as an uncontroversial and additional jurisdictional grant. There was no discussion of the substantive basis of Plaintiffs’ claim for “tortious actions in violation of international law,” and the court appears to have simply assumed its existence as a federal common law cause of action, with jurisdiction provided via unspecified combination of FSIA, domestic tort law, and federal criminal statutes.
  2. Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, 577 F. Supp. 860 (E.D.N.Y. 1984). $10.4 million judgment, as yet unenforced, for torture by Paraguayan official.
  3. Martinez-Baca v. Suarez-Mason, 1988 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19470 (N.D. Cal. 1988): Defendant initially contested, but default judgment ultimately awarded in the amount of $21 million. See also related cases, Forti v. Suarez, 694 F.Supp. 707 (N.D.Ca. 1988) ($4 million total damages, on torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, and disappearances, but not CIDT); de Rapaport, et al. v. Suarez-Mason, No. C87-2266-JPV (N.D.Cal. Apr. 11, 1989) ($30 million total damages)
  4. Todd v. Panjaitan, CIV.A. 92-12255-PBS, 1994 WL 827111 (D. Mass. 1994): Default judgment against Indonesian general, for summary execution of New Zealand national in East Timor. The descendant was in a crowd of people watching a funeral procession when troops fired, killing approximately 150-200 persons. General Panjaitan was the regional commander, and was transferred out of Indonesia after incident; he then relocated to the U.S., where he was sued. On default, descendant’s mother received: “(1) An award of compensatory damages to Helen Todd as administratrix of the estate of her son Kamal Bamadhaj for the conscious mental and physical pain and suffering of Kamal Bamadhaj in the amount of two million dollars ($2,000,000), plus interest. (2) An award of compensatory damages to plaintiff Helen Todd for her pain and suffering and loss of companionship of her son in the amount of two million dollars ($2,000,000), plus interest. (3) An award of punitive damages to plaintiff Helen Todd in the amount of ten million dollars ($10,000,000).”
  5. Paul v. Avril, 901 F. Supp. 330 (S.D. Fla. 1994): Default after defendant decline to participate. Defendant Avril, then the elected mayor of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was found to have “personal responsibility for a systematic pattern of egregious human rights abuses in Haiti during his military rule of September 1988 until March 1990. He also bears personal responsibility for the interrogation and torture of each of the plaintiffs in this case. All of the soldiers and officers in the Haitian military responsible for the arbitrary detention and torture of plaintiffs were employees, representatives, or agents of defendant Avril, acting under his instructions, authority, and control and acting within the scope of the authority granted by him. Many of the tormentors included members of the Presidential Guard and Avril’s personal security detail.” The court granted $41 million in compensatory and punitive damages to six Haitian victims of torture and false imprisonment.
  6. Xuncax v. Gramajo and Ortiz v. Gramajo*, 886 F. Supp. 162 (D. Ct. Mass. 1995): Suit by Kanjobol Indians against former Guatemalan Defense Minister, with Ortiz brought under the TVPA. Default judgment award, $47.5 million. Court sustained claims for torture, summary execution, disappearance, and arbitrary detention as obvious bases of jurisdiction, but called cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment as a “closer question,” before ultimately accepting it.
  7. Kadic v. Karadzic, 70 F.3d 232 (2d Cir. 1995): Default decision on the merits — jury determined damage award of $745 million.
  8. Mushikiwabo v. Barayagwiza, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4409 (S.D.N.Y. 1996): Incitement to genocide, based on Rwanda. $103 million awarded.
  9. Mehinovic v. Vuckovic, 198 F.Supp.2d 1322 (N.D. Ga. 2002): Default decision on merits – $140 million. Plaintiffs were four Bosnian Muslims who were tortured by a Serb soldier in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  10. Doe v. Saravia, 348 F. Supp. 2d 1112, 1156-57 (E.D. Cal. 2004): Case involved the 1980 assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero (go watch the movie Romero!). ATS liability found for crimes against humanity and extrajudicial killing. Default judgment of $10 million judgment ($5 million compensatory, $5 million punitive). (Note of interest: trial court cited to ICTY cases, as well as to Rome Statute. Court cites credibility of Rome Statute by noting that “four of the five members of the Security Council” have signed it. But irrelevant that U.S. has not.)
  11. Doe v. Liu Qu (N.D. Cal. 2004): Declaratory relief granted.
  12. Reyes v. Grijalba (S.D. Fl. 2006): Case against former Honduran military intelligence chief Juan López Grijalba, on behalf of six torture survivors and families of the disappeared. Default judgment with $47 million in damages awarded.
  13. Doe v. Constant (S.D.N.Y. 2006): Defendant was a leader of a Haitian political police force used to “repress and terrorize” the civilian population. Damages at $4 million total compensatory, $15 million punitive. ($300,000 recovered so far). Point of interest: During a deposition, Constant stated, “I’m not a member of F.R.A.P.H. I’m a leader of F.R.A.P.H.” I am guessing that did not help his case. Also note that the charges in the ATS case were also relevant to his sentencing for a mortgage fraud conviction in People v. Constant, 842 N.Y.S.2d 255, (2007).
  14. Mwani v. Bin Ladin, 244 F.R.D. 20 (D.D.C. 2007): Plaintiff, 523 Kenyan citizens, brought an action under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), 28 U.S.C.S. § 1350, for harm sustained as a result of a truck bomb exploding outside the United States Embassy in Kenya allegedly at the direction of defendants, a terrorist organization and its leader. The citizens filed a motion to set a date for ex parte proof and for entry of default judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 55 against defendants. Court later allowed for evidentiary hearing on damages, but found no right to jury trial on the issue.
  15. Lizarbe v. Hurtado, (S.D. Fla. 2008): Default judgment against Peruvian army officer for. Bench trial on damages resulted in award of $12 million dollars in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.
  16. Aguilar vImperial Nurseries (D.Conn. 2008): Human trafficking case. A default judgment was also reached against non-appearing defendants: “Plaintiff Alexander Aguilar is awarded $679,663.09; Plaintiff Carlos Aguilar is awarded $394,195.17; Plaintiff Leopoldo Santos Catu is awarded $660,000; Plaintiff Santos Chajchaguin is awarded $822,000; Plaintiff Marvin Coto is awarded $827,127.43; Plaintiff Esteban Epinoza is awarded $392,641.40; Plaintiff Walter Hernandez is awarded $824, 796.78; Plaintiff Angel Mendoza is awarded $823,864.52; Plaintiff Hugo Oreno is awarded $679,929.19; Plaintiff Carlos Pinto is awarded $391,553.77; Plaintiff Hector Rodas Lopez is awarded $392,019.90; and Plaintiff Luis Amilcar Rodriguez is awarded $823,234.01.”
  17. Kpadeh, et al. v. Emmanuel, 261 F.R.D. 687 (S.D. Fla. 2009): Damages awarded in February 2010. ATS case brought Chuckie Taylor — American citizen turned commander of the Liberian Anti-Terrorism Unit — for torture, CIDT, arbitrary arrest, and prolonged detention. Taylor defaulted, and liability was entered against him. Plaintiffs then moved “to certify as a class all persons whose human rights were violated by Mr. Taylor and the ATU forces working under his command.” Class certification was denied, but on a jury trial for damages, the five plaintiffs were awarded $22.4 million. As far as could be determined, enforcement of award has not resulted in any collection for plaintiffs.
  18. Yousuf v. Samantar (4th Cir. 2012): Ongoing litigation against Somali official for various human rights abuses. In 2010, case made an appearance before the Supreme Court, where Samantar was denied foreign official immunity. In February 2012, Samantar filed for bankruptcy, and then agreed to an entry of default judgment against him before the district court. Damages were set at $21 million. In November 2012, the Fourth Circuit once again denied Samantar’s claim of immunity.

C. Successful ATS Claims Against A Corporation

  1. Licea v. Curacao Drydock Co., 584 F. Supp. 2d 1355 (S.D.Fla. 2008): (Bench) Defendant did make an appearance but refused to defend. Plaintiffs were awarded $80 million in damages total. “The Defendant in this case, one of the largest drydock companies in the Western Hemisphere, with tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues, conspired with the Republic of Cuba to force Cuban citizens to travel to facilities the Defendant owns in Curacao, to hold them in captivity there, and to force them to work repairing ships and oil platforms.” The court also found that an ATS claim was sustainable as, “Forced labor constitutes a violation of a well-established, universally-recognized norm of international law. It is widely recognized as one of the handful of serious claims for which the ATS provides jurisdiction in U.S. district courts regardless of where it occurred. It is a brutal offense condemned by the civilized world. This Court is compelled to act strongly to punish and deter it.” Collection efforts appear to be ongoing; in January 2010, Plaintiffs moved to commence proceedings supplementary to implead the Governments of Island Territory of Curaçao and the Government of the Netherlands Antilles and add them as Judgment Debtors, but motion was denied. See Licea v. Curacao Drydock Co., Inc., 06-22128-CIV, 2011 WL 2118716 (S.D.Fla. 2011).
  2. Chowdhury v. Worldtel Bangladesh Holding, Ltd., et al., 588 F. Supp.2d 375 (E.D.N.Y. 2008) (Aug. 2009): (Jury) Plaintiff brought suit for torture that was motivated by desire to have plaintiff give up control of his company; Defendant hired Bangladeshi police unit to carry out the torture. Verdict after jury trial for $1.5 million in compensatory damages against both corporate and individual defendant, and $250,000 in punitive damages against individual defendant alone. Jury did not find that punitives were warranted against the corporate defendant. Notice of appeal was filed by defendants, but does not appear to have been acted on — presumably, payment of the judgment was made and the matter is done with, but need confirmation on this point.

D. Ongoing Claims (Very Partial List)

  1. Ochoa Lizarbe v. Rivera Rondon, 402 F. App’x 834, 838 (4th Cir. 2010): Case currently stayed. Claims arise out of defendant’s participation in the Peruvian “Accomarca Massacre.” Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of immunity to Rondon under the FSIA. As of October 2012, another six month stay was entered, due to Peruvian criminal proceedings against the Defendant that are ongoing.
  2. Ahmed v. Magan, No. 2:10-cv-342 (S.D. Ohio): Ongoing claims against Somali official that now resides in Ohio. U.S. has filed statement of interest in the matter, recommending that the U.S. exercise jurisdiction over him, and recognizing “(1) that Magan is a former official of a state with no currently recognized government to request immunity on his behalf, including by expressing a position on whether the acts in question were taken in an official capacity, and (2) the Executive’s assessment that it is appropriate in the circumstances here to give effect to the proposition that U.S. residents like Magan who enjoy the protections of U.S. law ordinarily should be subject to the jurisdiction of our courts.” (Statement of Interest of the United States of America.) Although Defendant initially participated in litigation, he went AWOL midway through proceedings, and in November 2012 the court granted plaintiff’s unopposed motion for partial summary judgment. A hearing on damages has been set for May 2013.

E. Plaintiffs Receiving Out of Court Settlements for ATS Claims Against Corporations or State Actors

  1. Siderman de Blake v. Republic of Argentina, 965 F.2d 699 (9th Cir. 1992). Settled Sept. 13, 1996, in the Central District Court of California. Siderman had a complicated procedural path, most of it focusing on FSIA jurisdiction and not ATS jurisdiction, but it started off as a default judgment for a claim brought under the ATS. Eventually, after winding its way up to and then being bounced back from the 9th Circuit, Argentina settled the case with the plaintiff. This was the first time in a U.S. case that a foreign state had settled for claims of human rights violations. The settlement terms were confidential, but sources place the total at around $6 million.
  2. Eastman Kodak Co. v. Kavlin, 978 F.Supp. 1078 (S.D.Fla. 1997). American corporation and its employee brought action against Bolivian distributor and distributor’s officer, alleging that employee was wrongfully imprisoned in Bolivia. Claim survived dismissal: “With deep reservations, the Court holds that Carballo has stated a claim under the ATCA. As egregious as Casa Kavlin’s conduct may be if plaintiff’s allegations stand true, it pales in comparison to the usual fare under the ATCA-hideous torture, gang rape, genocidal murder, and the like. Nonetheless, the Court finds that the law of nations does prohibit the state to use its coercive power to detain an individual in inhumane conditions for a substantial period of time solely for the purpose of extorting from him a favorable economic settlement. The Court also finds that the Alien Tort Claims Act makes responsible anyone who conspires with state actors to achieve such an unlawful arbitrary detention. Accordingly, defendants’ motion will be denied on this ground.” Afterward, the parties settled.
  3. Jama v. U.S. I.N.S., 22 F.Supp.2d 353 (D.N.J. 1998). Court granted motion to dismiss of ATS claims against INS, but denied motion to dismiss against INS agents in their personal capacity. Later, United States settled some of the claims including ATS claims. The settlement agreement provided: “In this Settlement Agreement, plaintiffs and the government defendants settle any and all claims filed against the INS and/or the United States, including those stated in the first amended complaint filed on September 23, 1997, in Jama, et al. v. INS, et al., Civ. No. 97-3093 (DRD) (D.N.J.) (the “lawsuit”), alleging, inter alia, tort liability for damage to property and for emotional damages, violations of United States obligations under various international treaties, and violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).” No word on how much the settlement was for.
  4. Doe v. Unocal, 248 F.3d 915 (9th Cir. 2001): Undisclosed sum, various sources cite “millions.”
  5. Doe v. Reddy, et al, C 02-05570 WHA, 2003 WL 23893010 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 4, 2003): Claims brought by Indian women trafficked into the U.S. for forced labor and debt bondage. All claims other than ATS claims dismissed. The primary wrongdoer was Lakireddy Bali Reddy, who personally was involved in the abuse and slave trafficking, but his involved family members and associated network of corporations were also defendants. Claims were eventually settled for approximately $11 million.
  6. Doe I v. The Gap, Inc., No. CV-01-0031, 2001 WL 1842389, at *1 (D. N. Mar. I. Nov. 26, 2001); Does I v. The Gap, Inc., No. CV-01-0031, 2002 WL 1000068, at *1 (D. N. Mar. I. May 10, 2002): Claims brought arising from allegations of sweatshop abuse in Saipan, including claims under ATS. “The case settled in two “pacts,” with nineteen defendants (“Group I”) participating in the settlement that was preliminarily approved on May 10, 2002,112 and the remaining seven retailers and twenty-three manufacturers (“Group II”) announcing an agreement on September 26, 2002…. The settlements for Group I and Group II both contain the same basic stipulations regarding monetary payments and injunctive relief. A twenty-million dollar settlement fund from Groups I and II is designated to pay back wages for workers (as compensation for “volunteer work”) and to establish and administer a monitoring agreement.” Smith, Erin Geiger, Case Study: Does I v. the Gap, Inc.: Can A Sweatshop Suit Settlement Save Saipan?, 23 Rev. Litig. 737, 752-53 (2004). However, it is worth noting that the Court didn’t believe this to be a ‘win’ for the plaintiffs: “The court finds that there was minimal success in the outcome of this litigation as originally contemplated by the plaintiffs. The defendants settled without admitting any liability or fault1 and the plaintiffs received only 2% or less of what they originally stated they were seeking.” Does I v. The Gap, Inc., CV-01-0031, 2003 WL 22997250 (D. N. Mar. I. Sept. 11, 2003). Still, in all, “Plaintiffs [we]re awarded attorneys’ fees of $3,150,000.00 and expenses in the amount of $4,687,651.97.”
  7. Bodner v. Banque Paribas, 114 F. Supp. 2d 117, 128 (E.D.N.Y. 2000): Holocaust litigation asserting ATS claims, eventually settled. “The putative class of Benisti plaintiffs is composed completely of aliens suing for torts in violation of international law, including allegedly aiding and abetting the Vichy and Nazi regimes to plunder plaintiffs’ private property, depriving members of the Jewish community in France the means to finance their escape, facilitating Nazi genocide, and other claims. Such deeds were allegedly achieved by methods including blocking and confiscating the deposit accounts and the safety deposit boxes of the members of the putative class in advance of any official compulsion to do so, requiring depositors to fill out detailed, anti-semitic, geneological questionnaires, and distributing a circular of the French Banking Association detailing a common plan to seize Jewish assets. Plaintiffs refer to United Nations resolutions and the work of the Nuremberg tribunals as further evidence of the content of customary international law and the Court finds that such analogies have merit.”
  8. Wang Xiaoning vs. Yahoo!: Undisclosed, but did cover Plaintiff’s legal fees.
  9. Wiwa v. Shell, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 11873 (2d Cir.) (June 3, 2009): $15.5 million settlement.
  10. Abiola v. Abubakar, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2937 (N.D. Ill., Jan. 15, 2008): “Based on discussions with the parties, it appears that the settlement in the case, the amount of which is evidently confidential, is being funded by the government of Nigeria, which is not a party to the lawsuit. It further appears that the government of Nigeria is the driving force behind the request to vacate the June 27, 2006 decision. The parties have adopted the request because it appears to be important, and perhaps necessary, to finalize the settlement.”
  11. Aguilar vImperial Nurseries (D.Conn. 2008): Human trafficking case. Default judgment entered against non-appearing defendants; confidential settlement reached with defendants Imperial Nurseries, Griffin Land & Nurseries, Gregory M. Schaan, Jim Wells, Frederick M. Danziger, and Anthony J. Galici.
  12. Mainawal Rahman Building & Construction Co., Ltd. et al v. Dyncorp International, LLC (E.D.Va. 2009): Claims brought against defense contractor for torts in Afghanistan. Settlement occurred on unknown terms.
  13. Abdullahi v. Pfizer, Inc., 562 F.3d 163 (2d Cir. 2009): Following the 2d Circuit’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, 621 F.3d 111 (2d Cir. 2010), the Pfizer plaintiffs accepted a settlement in February 2011. Terms of the settlement are confidential, but “Pfizer spokesman Christopher Loder said the trust fund can pay a maximum of $175,000 per child to those able to prove death or permanent disability due to the 1996 trial of Trovan.” It seems like the payments will be made out of a $35 million trust fund established under a previous settlement with the Nigerian state of Kano.
  14. In re XE Services Alien Tort Litig., 665 F. Supp. 2d 569 (E.D. Va. 2009): Five consolidated cases. Plaintiffs were 45 Iraqi citizens and the estates of 19 deceased Iraqi citizens. Defendants were 11 corporations providing contract military services — a group of companies more that were more commonly known as Blackwater — along with two individuals, including Erik Prince, who owned and operated the companies. Settlement with the other individual defendant, a Blackwater employee, was reached first. Subsequently, following dismissal of parallel criminal charges, Xe settled the claims. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but from reports, it appears that plaintiffs averaged between $20,000 and $30,000 for claims for injuries, and $100,000 for the deceased plaintiffs. Many of the plaintiffs appear to be dissatisfied with the result; Blackwater, on the other hand, was reportedly “pleased” with the outcome.
  15. Shiguago et al. v. Occidental Petroleum Co. (C.D. Cal. 2010): Possible settlement. Case was dismissed with prejudice by stipulation; it appears that it could have been pursuant to a confidential settlement, but unconfirmed.
  16. Estate of Marani Manook v. Unity Resources Group (4th Cir. 2011): Suit by family of Iraqi woman against an Australian defense contractor. Marani Manook and another woman were shot by defendant’s contractors while the women were driving down a Baghdad street; claims were brought for war crimes and for the aiding and abetting of war crimes under the ATS, as well as for several additional domestic tortious causes of action. Plaintiff’s estate received a confidential out of court settlement.
  17. Al-Quraishi et al v. Nakhla et al. (4th Cir. 2012): ATS suit brought against L-3 Services, Inc., f/k/a Titan Corporatioan, for claims arising out of torture and CID treatment at Abu Ghraib. Confidential settlement reached in October 2012.

F. Defeated ATS claims after jury trial

  1. Ford v. Garcia*, aff’d in 289 F.3d 1283 (11th Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 1147, (2003): Jury trial held October, 2000, verdict to Defendants due to apparent constraints in jury instructions. (TVPA). First jury verdict in a contested trial under the TVPA only.
  2. Romero v. Drummond Co., 552 F.3d 1303, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 25861 (11th Cir. Ala., 2008): Verdict given July, 2007, finding Drummond not liable for deaths of the three union representatives.
  3. Bowoto v. Chevron, 621 F. 3d 1116 (9th Cir. 2010): In December 2008, a jury unanimously found for Chevron. Chevron then, somewhat ridiculously, requested attorney’s fees, which the court denied, noting allowing the Defendant to recover fees would have a “chilling effect” on future human rights litigation. The court was not particularly impressed with the request that Nigerian villagers should pay a billionaire corporation for its attorneys fees, as seen from the following discussion:

    Defendants argue that plaintiffs have not provided sufficient evidence to establish that plaintiffs are indigent. According to defendants, plaintiffs should also have provided the court with evidence of their assets. Defendants’ objection is not well taken. It can reasonably be assumed that plaintiffs do not earn pensions or accrue other significant assets through their work as, for instance, fish sellers in a Nigerian village. Defendants also argue that, because of the low cost of living in Nigeria, plaintiffs’ incomes “place them well above the average.” [FN2: Defendants cite a World Bank resource that lists the gross national product of Nigeria as amounting to $ 930 per capita in 2007]. While the Court accepts that the cost of living is lower in Nigeria than in the United States, defendants’ bill of costs seeks reimbursement for witness per diems, service of subpoenas, court reporters, videotaping, transcription, and photocopying in this county. The lower cost of living — and correspondingly lower incomes — in Nigeria would therefore suggest that plaintiffs are less able, not more able, to pay these fees, which are calculated according to U.S. standards. The Court finds that the declarations filed in conjunction with the instant motion, as well as evidence at trial about the abject poverty of villagers in Nigeria’s Ondo State, is sufficient to establish that plaintiffs are indigent. Bowoto v. Chevron Corp., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38174 (N.D. Cal. 2009).

  4. Hawa Abdi Jama v. Esmor Corr. Servs., 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 17950 (3d Cir. 2009): Jury trial, jury found for Defendants on ATS claims. Decision reached on 11/07, trial ct. docket No. 2:97-cv-03093.

Updated, December 18 2010: Added a compilation of defendant victories under the ATS, for ATS cases from 1789-1990.

Updated, March 2013: Updates added on a few recent pending ATS matters that have now concluded.

-Susan

19 thoughts on “Alien Tort Statute Cases Resulting in Plaintiff Victories

  1. Pingback: Second Circuit: No Corporate Liability Under the Alien Tort Statute « The View From LL2

  2. Hi Susan.. just wondering how your list is coming along? Any chance you’re able to post it soon? Would love to see the updated list! Looking forward to it.. JM

    • I am a total slacker, and the list is not done yet. But your comment nudged me to at least post up a partially updated version — all ATS cases from 1789-1990 are up on a new post.

      The rest of the list is actually not in too bad shape, but one of the major problems with finishing it is just wading through all the jailmail and other BS claims that were brought in the last decade or so. Not to mention all the new cases getting filed. But my major goals are to track down all the ATS settlements I’ve overlooked, and also get some accurate stats on ATS litigation — so hopefully I’ll get around to finishing the damn case list soon, and I’ll be able to start on the more fun parts.

      • Thanks Susan.. I’m actually looking at holding Corporations accountable for Environmental damage.. so any good (hard-hitting) stuff you can send my way would be much appreciated, especially since Environmental liability is already a hard sell under ATCA and now with Kiobel in the mix, it all a bit of a pain in my side at the moment!! Hope to hear from you soon.. JM (30286562@student.murdoch.edu.au)

    • Even with a full list, I don’t think you’ll find much support for corporate liability for environmental torts. Even for just state liability, that area of the law is still relatively thin gruel.

      I don’t buy the argument for corporate liability for violations of international environmental law, at least not under the ATS. There just isn’t near enough customary law there. States could create a treaty regime to cover that, if they wanted to, but they haven’t. Also the general scheme of international environmental law just doesn’t lend itself well to ATS-type litigation. Human rights law is different — both in terms of individual standing and the particular prohibitions that the law imposes make it a much better candidate for arguing out issues of derivative liability.

      “Corporate liability”, in the context of the ATS, is just a way of expressing the idea that states can’t privatize their violations of international law. Environmental treaties generally try and regulate pollution emanating from a state’s territory, whatever the source, so privatizing pollution doesn’t really provide a way to avoid treaty obligations. On the other hand, for human rights violations, it is possible for a state to accept a payment from a corporation and in exchange have the corporation be the one to commit the would-be human rights violations in the course of their business.

  3. Pingback: All* Alient Tort Statute Cases Brought Between 1789 and 1990 « The View From LL2

  4. I was reading Alejandre v. Republic of Cuba, and it says that the plaintiffs as well as 3 of the 4 murdered pilots were US citizens. The Alien Tort Statute provides that aliens file suit, right? I also read the brief on the case, and although it references the ATS, it does not say the plaintiffs sued under this law…

    I’m just wondering why it is a part of this list, clarification would be greatly appreciated!!

    • It’s TVPA, not ATS. Clarified the chart to make it clearer where cases involve TVPA claims without any accompanying ATS claims.

      The Alejandre plaintiffs/claimants had to be citizens to get jurisdiction for FSIA purposes.

  5. What sources did you use to find this information? I’m particularly interested in how you found exactly how much money has been awarded to the plaintiffs and how much from that award has actually been recovered.

  6. Hi, I too thank you very much for this list, it’s very helpful. From your experience and familiarity with the subject matter, would you say that there’s proof of a connection between the specific kind of international law violations and being held responsible for acts of others? So for example, if the violation is more egregious or of a more established kind (like torture for example) is a person or entity that did not directly commit the act more at risk of being held liable than if it were say degreading treatment?

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Ben

    • Legally, no. The “egregiousness” of the violation is irrelevant, for purposes of derivative liability. The important distinction is whether the violation is the sort where derivative liability can exist at all, not how bad the underlying act was.

      But in ATS cases, as a realistic matter, the trial courts definitely have a tendency to apply a squishy “if the international law violation was really, really, really icky and bad, then we will try harder to find a way to make the defendant liable” standard. See, e.g., M.C. v. Bianchi. That would hold true for derivative liability cases as well.

      Unless of course you argue that there is established CIL holding that aiding and abetting civil liability is to be imposed for the the “really icky and bad” class of international law violations…. but that’s kind of a weak sauce argument.

      • Thanks for this. I read your note on the Bianchi case as well. Could you elaborate on what you mean by “whether the violation is the sort where derivative liability can exist at all”? I am not aware of this distinction.

        • That’s a pretty broad subject in itself. But, as the law currently stands, some violations of international law plainly can lead to secondary liability (e.g., genocide), while other violations of international law cannot result in secondary liability as only the acting state can be liable for the violation (e.g., a state’s decision to enact an unlawful tariff?). And in between there is a whole lot of gray area.

          And then I suppose there could also be international law violations for which state actors can have derivative liability, even though private/non-state actors could not.

          Maybe this is a better way of answering your question: There’s two overlapping but separate questions here. One is whether or not there can be derivative liability, and the other is whether or not there can be non-state actor liability. And for both of these questions, regardless of any legal justification (or lack thereof), it is possible that a trial court is going to be more inclined to reach a finding that liability exists when the tort in question is really really really horrible.

  7. Hi Susan,
    Many thanks for your hard work on this. I am a LLM student that is doing research on ATS and implications and alternatives post Kiobel. I was trying to find some figures on ATS suits and I was glad to find your post. Now am also enjoying reading your posts on the ruling too.
    best wishes,
    Sam

  8. Hi Susan,
    Have to make a presentation to my LLM class on aftermath of Kiobel. Have been reading some commentators that are noting that following the Kiobel decision- there may likely be more cases being filed at State courts and some perhaps creatively to capture the new ruling. I also understand that State Courts have their own procedures and hurdles with jurisdictions etc.., scope etc..
    Others have noted that maybe there may be a move towards Europe- maybe UK and Netherlands- given the recent Shell case as alternatives. Foreign cubed cases are now completely restricted from ATS suit in courts right? Or is there some grey areas depending on if they can swing what conditions one of the Justice mentioned- that are also not clear- “touch US etc…” Foreign Squared is still ok right?

    I read about there was some attempts to amend the ATS in 2005- but have not found anything since. Is there any movement on this issue?

    Any comments would be appreciated- if you have time.
    Thanks.

    Sam
    University of Vienna
    Austria

  9. Pingback: In Re South Africa Apartheid Litigation: Corporate complicity in apartheid atrocity | Life, Law & other things

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