On the heels of Kiobel (of which more soon, I promise!), SCOTUS has agreed to hear another dispute over lawsuits in American courts against foreign companies for human rights abuses.
DaimlerChrysler AG v. Bauman concerns whether a corporation can be sued based only on the fact that it has a subsidiary in the place where the case was filed. The lawsuit, filed by former employees of an auto plant operated by Mercedes-Benz Argentina, claims that workers identified by state security forces stationed at the plant as “subversives” were arrested and detained, and some of them disappeared, during Argentina’s “Dirty War.”
According to GlobalPost, the plaintiffs have alleged that the company “collaborated with the Argentine government to kidnap, detain, torture, or kill (respondents) or their relatives during Argentina’s military regime of 1976 to 1983, known as the ‘Dirty War.'”
Meanwhile, Daimler, in its appeal before the Supreme Court, called the lower court’s ruling a “breathtaking expansion of general personal jurisdiction that is impossible to reconcile with the decisions of this court or other circuits” and said it will result in a “proliferation of suits in American courts by foreign plaintiffs suing foreign defendants based on foreign conduct.”
One reason why the Justices accepted the DaimlerChrysler case could have been to say something further on what kind of a U.S. connection is sufficient to support an [Alien Tort Statute] claim in a U.S. federal court. But another reason could be that the Justices saw in this case a wider issue, on the reach of a court in one jurisdiction to allow litigation against a corporation that is mostly located elsewhere, but has some activity where it was sued.
The Court in recent years has been attempting to sort out, for example, how far a state court can allow its courts to reach an out-of-state company. The decision that emerges in the DaimlerChrysler case thus could affect not only a federal court’s reach beyond the U.S., but also the power of state courts to reach beyond their borders.
(h/t Opinio Juris)