KIOBEL v. ROYAL DUTCH PETROLEUM

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
10-1491
Petitioner 
Esther Kiobel, et al.
Respondent 
Royal Dutch Petroleum, et al.
Decided By 
Advocates
(for the petitioners (argument and reargument))
(Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioners (argument))
(for the respondents (argument and reargument))
(Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae supporting the respondent (reargument))
Term:
Facts of the Case 

The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, Ltd., one of the respondents, operated oil production facilities in the Ogoniland region of Nigeria. Esther Kiobel and the other petitioners were Nigerian nationals who alleged that they, or their relatives, were killed, tortured, unlawfully detained, deprived of their property, and forced into exile by the Nigerian government. The petitioners maintain that the respondents, including the Shell Petroleum Development Company were complicit with the Nigerian government’s human rights abuses.

The petitioners filed a putative class action against the respondents, under the Alien Tort Statute in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The District Court dismissed claims against the corporate defendants in part and certified its order for interlocutory appeal.

Both parties cross-appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The respondents argued that the law of nations does not attach civil liability to corporations under any circumstances. The petitioners argued that the liability should attach to corporate actors, just as it would to private actors. On September 17, 2010, the Second Circuit affirmed dismissal of the lawsuit with the majority holding that the Alien Tort Statute does not confer jurisdiction over suits against corporations. On February 4, 2011, the Second Circuit denied the petitioners’ request for panel rehearing and for rehearing en banc. The petitioners filed a second petition for rehearing en banc and a motion to recall the mandate, which the Second Circuit denied.

Following oral argument, the Court set the case for reargument in the 2012 Term to address whether and when the Alien Tort Statute allows courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States.

Question 

1. Is corporate civil tort liability under the Alien Tort Statute an issue of subject matter jurisdiction?

2. Under the Alien Tort Statute, are corporations immune from tort liability for violations of the law of nations, such as torture, extrajudicial executions, or genocide?

3. Upon reargument, whether and when does the Alien Tort Statute allow courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States?

Cite this Page
KIOBEL v. ROYAL DUTCH PETROLEUM. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 20 April 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2011/2011_10_1491>.
KIOBEL v. ROYAL DUTCH PETROLEUM, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2011/2011_10_1491 (last visited April 20, 2014).
"KIOBEL v. ROYAL DUTCH PETROLEUM," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed April 20, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2011/2011_10_1491.