The lawsuit against Nestle regarding its support of child slavery in Ivory Coast will move forward as planned. On Monday, the United States Supreme Court rejected a proposal by Nestle, along with two other companies, to discard a lawsuit that will hold them accountable for their unethical practices. Nestle is being sued for supporting child labor by purchasing cocoa that is harvested in Ivory Coast where slaves were used.
The Supreme Court upheld a ruling from December of 2014 that was made by the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. With the decision, Nestle, Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and Cargill Inc. will have to defend themselves in court.
The plaintiffs are originally from Mali, and they are accusing the three companies of human rights violations by actively purchasing cocoa from Ivory Coast. According to the plaintiffs, the companies were aware of the child slavery issue, and they offered both financial and technical assistance to local Ivory Coast farmers in order to secure the cheapest source of cocoa possible.
In their decision to move forward with the lawsuit, the Supreme Court Justices focused on a 2013 SCOTUS ruling that made it more difficult for plaintiffs to sue American corporations for abuses that occurred overseas. In 2013, the High Court ruled in the Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum case that the lawsuit against Royal Dutch Shell would be thrown out. Royal Dutch Shell had been accused of supporting state-sponsored torture and murder in Nigeria. The lawsuit was thrown out because it was determined to not concern United States territory.
Since then, American companies facing similar lawsuits have largely been able to get themselves out of trouble by citing the ruling from 2013. However, judges have interpreted in the ruling in different ways. This time, the tactic did not work for Nestle.
The appeals court in the Nestle case ruled that the plaintiffs could revise their lawsuit in order to see if they meet the requirements under the Supreme Court ruling. The United States Chamber of Commerce and several business groups have urged the court to take on the case.