This week the Supreme Court annulled a lower court’s ruling that permitted six men from Mali to sue Nestlé USA and Cargill Inc. over claims they were trafficked as child slaves to farms in the West African nation of Ivory Coast that supply cocoa to the two giant food companies.
In his opinion, writing for the 8-1 majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit was wrong in allowing the suit on the grounds that the two food companies allegedly had made “major operational decisions” in the United States.
The six Mali plaintiffs said they were trafficked into Ivory Coast to make cocoa as child slaves and sought to hold the two U.S. companies liable for those alleged abuses. Their case claimed that major decisions about the alleged trafficking operations were made in the U.S.
The justices noted the allegations against Nestlé and Cargill lacked enough of a U.S. connection to go forward under the 1789 Alien Tort Statute, a law that grants to U.S. federal courts original jurisdiction over any civil action brought by an alien.