Transnational

Over the past 15 years, there has been a sharp rise in lawsuits brought against American companies, as well as foreign companies with a substantial U.S. presence, that are premised on alleged personal or environmental injuries occurring abroad. These cases raise the question of whether U.S. courts should be the venue for cases concerning conduct occurring outside the territory of the United States. They have also been characterized by controversial and abusive tactics by plaintiffs and their lawyers.

Many of those transnational lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. by plaintiffs’ class action firms, public interest attorneys and non-governmental organizations.  Some have been filed in federal courts under the 200-year old Alien Tort Statute (ATS), while many more have been brought in state courts under common law principles. 

These cases raise several concerns. One is the use of U.S. courts for adjudicating disputes that occurred outside of the country. It is a generally established principle that U.S. courts should not hear cases involving foreign conduct unless there is a significant nexus to the United States. By undermining this principle, these cases set a precedent that could be used to expose Americans to litigation in foreign courts over conduct occurring in the United States.

Equally troubling are the tactics used in these cases. According to ILR’s study Think Globally, Sue Locally, transnational cases are characterized by a number of features, including aggressive media tactics, organized protests and boycotts of corporate defendants, political pressure and, in some cases, outright fraud and abuse by plaintiffs’ lawyers. In the major transnational case against Chevron in Ecuador, no less than three federal courts have found the proceedings tainted by fraud.

In April 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum that claims of wrongful conduct on foreign soil cannot be brought in U.S. courts under the ATS.  This ruling will limit the use of the ATS in transnational cases, but does not affect cases brought under state common law. A complete list of lawsuits against corporations under the Alien Tort Statute can be found here

 

Research

As Kiobel Turns Two: How the Supreme Court is Leaving the Details to Lower Courts

August 11, 2015 | This paper explores the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court's Kiobel decision on Alien Tort Statute (ATS) litigation in lower courts, and how lower courts have struggled to determine whether Kiobel permits U.S. corporations to be sued under the ATS for alleged torts in foreign countries.

Federal Cases from Foreign Places: How the Supreme Court Has Limited Foreign Disputes From Flooding U.S. Courts

October 21, 2014 | This collection of essays examines the shifting legal landscape of federal claims by foreign plaintiffs in the federal courts and focuses on the most common statutes invoked by foreign plaintiffs, as well as the threshold issues of personal jurisdiction and pleading standards that govern such suits.

All Results for Transnational

Class Action Reform Bill Would Spotlight "Cottage Industry" of Third-Party Litigation Funders

February 24, 2017 | News and Blog

In a story examining the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, the Wall Street Journal's Ben Depietro looks specifically at measures in the legislation that would "require disclosure of third parties funding class actions," and notes the U.S. Chamber's support for the bill. Read More »

In the News Today - February 24, 2017

February 24, 2017 | News and Blog

The American Law Institute is "cooking up new common law rules covering consumer contracts that would give courts an unprecedented range of reasons to invalidate or rewrite contract terms." Read More »

Australian Litigation Funder Expands to Texas as Industry Faces 'Increased Scrutiny' from Courts

February 22, 2017 | News and Blog

Australia-based third party litigation funder Bentham IMF is expanding to Texas, and has hired Eric Chenoweth, a commercial and intellectual property litigator at Yetter Coleman, to lead its Houston office. Read More »

In the News Today - February 16, 2017

February 16, 2017 | News and Blog

The current asbestos system is plagued by rampant fraud and abuse by plaintiffs' lawyers; this abuse harms both alleged victims and the economy. Thankfully, Congress is taking action to address this by advancing the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act, which passed out of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. The bill, among other provisions, aims to shine a light on these trusts so that compensation goes to legitimate victims. Read More »

Michigan Endowment to Invest in Litigation Funding

February 15, 2017 | News and Blog

The University of Michigan plans to invest $50 million with a fund co-founded by Boaz Weinstein and Lee Drucker that specializes in litigation strategy. Read More »

In the News Today - February 8, 2017

February 08, 2017 | News and Blog

According to London law firm RPC, the 20 biggest independent litigation funders in the U.K. ballooned from 575 million pounds in 2015 to 723 million pounds in the last year. The firm claims these entities increased litigation funding as they "gear up to fund more businesses pursuing legal dispute." Read More »

In the News Today - January 30, 2017

January 30, 2017 | News and Blog

As we enter 2017 with a new administration, new Congress, and renewed hope for legal reform, we are faced with the unsettling fact that the explosive growth of abusive Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) litigation continues. Read More »

In the News Today - January 27, 2017

January 27, 2017 | News and Blog

The Mississippi House passed a bill this week that would require the attorney general to receive permission from a three-member board consisting of the state governor, the lieutenant governor, and the secretary of state, before hiring outside counsel to pursue litigation. Read More »

ILR President Lisa Rickard on Third-Party Funding: "A Dubious Proposition"

January 26, 2017 | News and Blog

In an opinion piece for The Recorder, Lisa Rickard, President of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, calls out third-party litigation funding (TPLF) for "undermining our civil justice system by turning it into a risky investment platforms where investors can bet on litigation." Read More »

In the News Today - January 26, 2017

January 26, 2017 | News and Blog

Senator Orrin Hatch writes on the need for mens rea, or "guilty mind," requirements in our courts. He says that in recent years "these crucial protections have eroded through regulatory encroachment and congressional inattention." Read More »

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