ATS Update: Daimler v. Bauman

This should be of interest to my International Law students. The Alien Tort Statute (ATS) has been used as a way to bring foreign human rights claims into US courts.

Adam Steinman has a post on Opinio Juris about the oral arguments in this case, which resembles Kiobel. The Ninth Circuit in California found that Daimler (an otherwise foreign defendant) is subject to California jurisdiction given its American subsidiary, Mercedes Benz USA.

The key issue for SCOTUS:

the question for which the Court granted certiorari in Daimler involves personal jurisdiction and is not limited to ATS cases: “whether it violates due process for a court to exercise general personal jurisdiction over a foreign corporation based solely on the fact that an indirect corporate subsidiary performs services on behalf of the defendant in the forum State.”

The likely outcome? As Steinman notes:

While it appears unlikely that the Court will endorse the Ninth Circuit’s conclusion that general personal jurisdiction existed over Daimler, it is possible that the Court’s opinion will be a narrow one.

That is, it is unlikely but still possible they will rule that the specific circumstances here allow for jurisdiction to be asserted.

By the way, the substance of the case is that a different subsidiary of Daimler in Argentina was alleged to have committed human rights violations in Argentina. SCOTUS isn’t concerned with that issue, only the issue of whether we can establish jurisdiction in the US under the ATS.

About mbnelson

Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University
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