A 223-year-old law says foreigners can file lawsuits in American courts for alleged violations of international law. But whether they can sue corporations remains a question for the Supreme Court.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
“I don’t know if this precise case could be brought,” Mr. Hoffman finally conceded.
“If there is no other country where this suit could have been brought ... isn’t it a legitimate concern that allowing the suit itself contravenes international law,” Chief Justice John Roberts asked.
The exchange came during an hour-long oral argument in a potential landmark case that could set the contours of corporate liability under an unusual 223-year-old American law.
The so-called Alien Tort Statute allows non-US citizens to file lawsuits in American courts for alleged violations of international law. Rather than filing their case in Nigeria, lawyers for the villagers decided to bring their fight to the US courts under the Alien Tort Statute.
There is just one problem. It is not clear that the enigmatic statute permits lawsuits against corporations.
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