As Kiobel Turns One, Its Effect Remains Unclear

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May 02, 2014

On April 17, 2013, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, 133 S. Ct. 1659 (2013), holding that the Alien Tort Statute—a federal law that allows aliens to bring civil suits in U.S. courts for international law violations—does not reach alleged misconduct that “took place outside the United States” in most cases.

At the time, commentators predicted that the Court’s decision would significantly curtail ATS litigation against businesses in the United States—in particular, limiting suits against multinational companies that operate in developing countries. But there also was concern that ambiguous language in the decision might leave the door open for plaintiffs to continue to file ATS suits, especially against U.S. companies, relating to acts in other countries if plaintiffs can allege a sufficient nexus with the United States.

Authored by John Bellinger, III and Reeves Anderson of Arnold Porter LLP, this paper takes a look back at the impact of the Kiobel decision during the past year.