International Litigation Update: Developments Concerning the Alien Tort Statute and Personal Jurisdiction

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In the span of less than a week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., a decision concerning the reach of the Alien Tort Statute, and granted certiorari in Bauman v. DaimlerChrysler Corp.,ii a case in which the Court will consider whether, and under what circumstances, the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process Clause permits U.S. courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over a parent company based on the jurisdictional contacts of its subsidiary. Each of these decisions will have major impacts on cross-border litigation in the United States.

The Alien Tort Statute – Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. -

In Kiobel, the Supreme Court held that the Alien Tort Statute – a one sentence statute adopted by the inaugural U.S. Congress in 1789 that confers jurisdiction on U.S. courts for tort claims brought by aliens for violations of customary international law – does not apply to conduct that occurs in a foreign nation. The Court’s ruling represents a dramatic retrenchment of federal court jurisdiction under the ATS, and is addressed to what has become the paradigm ATS claim: a claim against one or more corporations for alleged human rights violations as a result of political instability and/or violence abroad.

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