Second Circuit Rules Corporations Not Liable Under Alien Tort Statute

September 21, 2010

The Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”) provides jurisdiction in United States federal courts for claims brought by aliens alleging a tort committed in violation of the laws of nations. In recent years, plaintiffs have invoked the statute against corporations for alleged complicity in human rights violations in other countries. On September 17, 2010, the Second Circuit, in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell, 06-4800, became the first appellate court to hold that the ATS may not be used to impose liability on corporations. If the decision is followed by other circuits or the Supreme Court, it may have the effect of significantly reducing corporate exposure under the ATS.