Nestlé, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland lawsuit (re Côte d'Ivoire)

child labour Côte d’Ivoire Credit - International Labour Rights ForumPour la version française de ce profil, cliquez ici.

On 14 July 2005, three individuals from Mali and Global Exchange (a human rights organization) filed a class action lawsuit in California federal court against Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill.  The individuals alleged they had been trafficked from Mali as child slaves and forced to work harvesting and/or cultivating cocoa beans on farms in Côte d’Ivoire.  The plaintiffs allege that they were forced to work long hours without pay, kept in locked rooms when not working and suffered severe physical abuse by those guarding them.  The plaintiffs allege that the companies aided, abetted or failed to prevent the torture, forced labour and arbitrary detention that they had suffered as child slaves.  The lawsuit alleges violations of the Alien Tort Claims Act, Torture Victim Protection Act, US Constitution and California state law.  The plaintiffs further claimed that the companies’ economic benefit from the labour of children violates international labour conventions, the law of nations and customary international law. 

In August 2005, Nestlé filed a motion to force the disclosure of the names of the former child slave plaintiffs, which was opposed by the plaintiffs.  In addition, the defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the case.  On 27 July 2006, the court ordered further briefings to be filed on various issues related to aiding and abetting standards.  On 8 September 2010 the court dismissed the case finding that the case could not be brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  The court concluded that existing authorities did not demonstrate that corporate liability was sufficiently well established and universal to satisfy a claim under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal.  In December 2013, a federal appeals court overturned the 2010 ruling and allowed the plaintiffs to refile the lawsuit.  In September 2014, the federal appeals court replaced its December 2013 opinion with an expanded one reversing and vacating the lower court's dismissal of the case. The new opinion sets forth expanded reasoning for allowing the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to show the connection their claims have to the United States to address the US Supreme Court's holding in Kiobel v. Shell. The court found that the plaintiffs have standing to bring their Alien Tort case because of the universal prohibition against slavery.  In September 2015, the defendants petitioned the Supreme Court to throw out the federal appeals court’s ruling and want it to decide if companies are subject to liability under the Alien Tort Claims Act.  In January 2016 the Supreme Court declined to hear the companies' appeal.

In July 2016, the plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint.  The hearing is taking place in January 2017.


- "Child Slavery Claims Against Nestle, Cargill Get One More Chance", Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg, 9 Jan 2017
- "US Supreme Ct. rejects Nestlé, ADM & Cargill's bid to dismiss Alien Tort case alleging complicity in forced child labour", Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, 11 Jan 2016
- "9th Circuit Digs Into Nestle Child Slavery Suit", Courthouse News Service (USA), 5 Sep 2014
Ivory Coast says its cocoa not tainted by slavery”, Reuters, 13 Feb 2006
-[FR] « Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland et Cargill attaquées pour travail des enfants » GRESEA, 28 septembre 2005
- “U.S. companies sued in Calif. over child labor claims”, Reuters, 16 Jul 2005

- Nestlé S.A.: [PDF] The Cocoa Plan: Nestlé and sustainable cocoa
- Archer Daniels Midland: [PDF] ADM Supports Responsible Cocoa Farming, 7 Feb 2006
- Cargill: Responsible Cocoa Sourcing and Production

- Global Exchange: “Nestle Taken to Court for Trafficking, Torture, and Beatings of Child Laborers on West African Cocoa Farms,” 03 Feb 2006

- International Rights Advocates (co-counsel for plaintiffs):Nestle, Archers Daniel Midland, and Cargill [summary of case, includes links to certain legal documents]
- IRAdvocates file second amended complaint in Nestle in an attempt to bring justice to former child slaves in West Africa, 15 Jul 2016
- Amended complaint, 14 Jul 2016

Doe v. Nestlé et al., US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- [PDF] Order reversing lower court's dismissal, 4 Sep 2014
- [PDF] Brief of amicus curiae EarthRights International in support of Plaintiffs/Appellants, 1 Jul 2011
- [PDF] Defendants' answering brief, 30 Sep 2011
- [PDF] Plaintiffs' opening brief, 24 Jun 2011

Doe v. Nestlé et al., US District Court, Central District of California
- [PDF] Order granting defendants' motion to dismiss, 8 Sep 2010
- [PDF] First amended complaint, 22 Jul 2009
- [PDF] Declaration of Herman N. (Rusty) Johnson in Support of Plaintiffs’ Supplementary Brief [with information about company sourcing practices], 9 Aug 2006
- [PDF] Defendants’ Joint Opening Brief in Response to Court’s July 27, 2006 Order, 9 Aug 2006
- [PDF] Declaration in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, 2 Jan 2006
- [PDF] Individuals (John Doe I, II & III) and Global Exchange, v. Nestle, Archers Daniels Midland, Cargill, et al. , 14 Jul 2005 [complaint]

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9 January 2017

US judge to decide on jurisdiction in lawsuit against chocolate firms over alleged child slavery in Côte d'Ivoire

Author: Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg (USA)

"Child Slavery Claims Against Nestle, Cargill Get One More Chance", 9 Jan 2017

Six men forced into slavery as boys to harvest cocoa pods have a second chance to go after some of the world’s biggest chocolate companies in U.S. court, saying the companies should have known their suppliers used forced labor.  They’re asking a federal allow to go ahead...They say Nestle SA and Cargill Inc. employees in the U.S. knew of the forced they should be able to sue in an American court.  Allowing the former slaves to sue in the U.S. over human rights abuses overseas would reverse years of precedents...Nestle said its policies to reduce child labor aren’t, as the plaintiffs contend, evidence of its complicity...Lawyers for the six...claim U.S. importers knew of the abuses yet provided farmers with funding...On Friday, [U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson] said he will decide whether to dismiss the amended claims...[T]he Malians have to give a plausible account of how the aiding and abetting of slavery occurred in the U.S.  The judge won’t rule on the merits of the claims, only whether the lawsuit falls within the court’s jurisdiction...[Also refers to Chevron Corp., Coco-Cola Co.]

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28 July 2016

Complaint in US lawsuit against chocolate firms over alleged child slavery in Côte d'Ivoire asks for jury trial & damages

Author: Terry Collingsworth, International Rights Advocates

"Second Amended Complaint for Injunctive Relief and Damages", 14 Jul 2016

The Former Child Slave Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated former child slaves of Malian origin against Defendants: Nestlé...Cargill...and Archer Daniels Midland...for the forced labor and torture they suffered as a result of the wrongful conduct either caused and/or aided and abetted by these corporate entities. Specifically, the Former Child Slave Plaintiffs assert claims for child slavery/forced labor, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, and torture under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”)...Plaintiffs demand a trial by jury on all issues so triable. [Also]...respectfully request the Court to: (a) enter judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs on all counts of the Complaint;  (b) award the Plaintiffs compensatory and punitive damages; (c) grant the Plaintiffs equitable relief including, but not limited to, an injunction prohibiting further damage to their persons, remedying past damage, and protecting their rights under customary international law; (d) award Plaintiffs the costs of suit including reasonable attorneys’ fees;...award Plaintiffs such other and further relief as the Court deems just under the circumstances.



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15 July 2016

IRAdvocates file second amended complaint in Nestle in an attempt to bring justice to former child slaves in West Africa

Author: International Rights Advocates

On July 14, 2016, six former child slaves who had been trafficked from Mali to Cote D’Ivoire, filed an amended class action complaint alleging they were forced to harvest cocoa for Nestle, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. This continues their nearly 11-year legal battle to establish that they have the legal right to sue these companies for knowingly providing substantial assistance to plantation owners in Cote D’Ivoire who systematically use child slaves to harvest cocoa for the international market...Paul Hoffman, counsel for the Plaintiffs and the attorney who argued Kiobel in the Supreme Court, stated “the allegations of these Plaintiffs should be sufficient to meet the new Kiobel test. The Plaintiffs allege that Nestle (USA), Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland acted to protect the system in Cote D’Ivoire from meaningful regulation to continue to benefit from low-priced cocoa for the U.S. market. In particular, the complaint alleges that key decisions to facilitate child slavery were made by the corporations in the United States.”...

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1 February 2016

Nestlé admits slavery in Thailand while fighting child labour lawsuit in Ivory Coast

Author: Annie Kelly, Guardian (UK)

It’s hard to think of an issue that you would less like your company to be associated with than modern slavery. Yet last November Nestlé…went public with the news it had found forced labour in its supply chains in Thailand…Nick Grono, the chief executive of NGO the Freedom Fund…believes Nestlé’s admission could be a considerable force in shifting the parameters of what can be expected of businesses when it comes to supply chain accountability…Nestlé is…facing legal action in the US. Last week the company…failed in its bid to get the US Supreme Court to throw out a lawsuit seeking to hold them liable for the alleged use of child slaves in cocoa farming in the Ivory Coast. This puts the company in the unfortunate position of disclosing slavery in one part of its operations, while at the same time fighting through the courts to fend off accusations that it exists in another – more profitable – part of its business. [also refers to Patagonia, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill]

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Author: Martin Kouassi, Nathalie Barge, La Voix de l'Amérique

La Cour suprême américaine a rejeté une requête de Nestlé, le géant mondial de l’alimentation, et deux autres sociétés visant à annuler un procès sur leur responsabilité quant à l'utilisation d'enfants pour récolter le cacao en Côte-d'Ivoire...La plus haute juridiction américaine a maintenu une décision de décembre 2014 prise par une Cour d’appel à San Francisco, qui a refusé de rejeter une plainte contre Nestlé, Archer-Daniels-Midland et Cargill, déposée par d'anciennes victimes...Les plaignants, qui sont originaires du Mali, soutiennent que les entreprises ont aidé et encouragé les violations des droits humains à travers leur participation active dans l'achat de cacao de Côte-d'Ivoire. Tout en étant conscientes du problème de l'exploitation des enfants, les entreprises ont offert une aide financière et technique aux agriculteurs locaux dans le but de garantir la source la moins chère du cacao, ont affirmé les plaignants...Dans sa décision 2013 sur le cas Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, la Cour suprême a rejeté à l'unanimité un procès intenté par 12 personnes originaires du Nigeria qui accusaient Royal Dutch Shell de soutenir des actes de torture et des assassinats imputés à l’Etat nigérian...Dans le cas de Nestlé, la cour d'appel a déclaré que les plaignants pouvaient mettre à jour leur procès pour s’adapter à la décision de la Cour suprême, notamment en incluant des revendications plus spécifiques quant au lien de causalité entre les agissements présumés de ces sociétés et l’esclavage des enfants.

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12 January 2016

Nestlé says in its website that no company sourcing cocoa from Ivory Coast can guarantee they have completely removed the risk of children working on small farms in their supply chain

Author: NEOnline/GK

Swiss giant, Nestle, will be sued over allegations that it used child slaves to harvest cocoa in the Ivory Coast in Africa…the US Supreme Court rejected the appeal by Nestle, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill to dismiss the lawsuit. The case first came into surface on 14 July 2005, when three individuals from Mali and Global Exchange filed a class action lawsuit in California federal court against the three companies.  According to Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, the individuals alleged they had been trafficked from Mali as child slaves and forced to work harvesting and/or cultivating cocoa beans on farms in the Ivory Coast…The plaintiffs allege that the companies aided and failed to prevent the torture, forced labor and arbitrary detention that they had suffered as child slaves. The plaintiffs further claimed that the companies’ economic benefit from the labor of children violates international labor conventions, the law of nations and customary international law...[I]n 2012, seven years after the shocking revelations, the Swiss giant decided to establish a monitoring and remediation system in farmer cooperatives to raise awareness about child labor and to identify children at risk…

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11 January 2016

US Supreme Ct. rejects Nestlé, ADM & Cargill's bid to dismiss Alien Tort case alleging complicity in forced child labour

Author: Lawrence Hurley, Reuters

"U.S. top court rejects Nestle bid to throw out child slavery suit", 11 Jan 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a bid by Nestle SA…and two other companies to throw out a lawsuit seeking to hold them liable for the use of child slaves to harvest cocoa in Ivory Coast. The high court left in place a December 2014 ruling by the…9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Nestle, Archer-Daniels-Midland Co and Cargill Inc filed by former victims of child slavery. The plaintiffs…contend the companies aided and abetted human rights violations through their active involvement in purchasing cocoa from Ivory Coast. While aware of the child slavery problem, the companies offered financial and technical assistance to local farmers in a bid to guarantee the cheapest source of cocoa, the plaintiffs said.


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4 January 2016

US Supreme Ct. should hear Nestlé, Cargill & ADM case over alleged child labour in Côte d'Ivoire to clarify unresolved Alien Tort issues, says lawyer

Author: John Bellinger, Arnold & Porter, on Lawfare blog (USA)

"Doe v Nestle: Will SCOTUS Grant Cert to Clarify Unresolved Issues in Kiobel?", 30 Dec 2015

Less than three years after the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum, which held that the Alien Tort Statute is presumed not to apply to conduct on the sovereign territory of other countries, the Supreme Court is considering whether to grant certiorari in another ATS case to clarify issues left unresolved in Kiobel. The case before the Court is Doe v. Nestle, in which a divided Ninth Circuit panel allowed a decade-old ATS suit to proceed against three American companies (Nestle USA, Archer-Daniels-Midland, and Cargill) alleged to have aided and abetted acts of child enslavement by coca farmers in the Cote d'Ivoire. The defendant companies have filed for cert, arguing that the Ninth Circuit's decision conflicts not only with Kiobel but with post-Kiobel decisions of other circuit courts. The plaintiffs respond that it is premature for the Court to review the case and deny that there is a circuit split...[T]he Court is scheduled to decide on January 8 whether to take the case...Supreme Court review is warranted to resolve the circuit conflict over the meaning of Kiobel's "touch and concern" test, and the Nestle cert petition presents a suitable vehicle to clarify the meaning of "touch and concern" and other ATS issues left unresolved by Kiobel...

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28 October 2015

Business groups argue that allowing US lawsuit against chocolate firms over alleged child slavery in Côte d’Ivoire to continue would damage US business

Author: Law360 (USA)

“Nestle Child Slave Suit Hurts US Business, Justices Told”, 26 Oct 2015 [subscription required]

…The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cocoa industry groups and others urged the Supreme Court to undo a Ninth Circuit ruling reviving a suit by former child slaves who claim Nestle USA Inc. and other companies perpetuated slavery on cocoa plantations, arguing that the ruling would discourage investment and corporate human rights initiatives overseas...[Also refers to Archer Daniels Midland]

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2 October 2015

Nestlé petitions US Supreme Court to throw out case by former child slaves of Côte d'Ivoire cocoa plantations

Author: Jody Godoy, Law360 (USA)

“Nestle Asks Justices To Nix Foreign Child Slavery Suit”, 28 Sep 2015 [Subscription required]

Nestle and other food industry behemoths have asked the Supreme Court to toss the Ninth Circuit's ruling that three anonymous former child slaves on Mali cocoa plantations can sue the corporations under the Alien Tort Statute…The Ninth Circuit held last year that the three anonymous plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged Nestle USA Inc., Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Cargill Incorporated Co. had aided and abetted slavery through their pursuit of low-cost cocoa in the Ivory Coast.  In a petition for writ of certiorari filed on Sept. 18, the corporations said that standard would drastically expand application of the foreign tort law…The plaintiffs…alleged they were forced to work 14-hour days with little food and endured whippings and beatings, and that the defendants knew about the abhorrent conditions but continued to support the cocoa farmers in order to keep the commodity as inexpensive as possible. The district court dismissed the case…[I]n September 2014...the Ninth Circuit reversed that holding allowing the suit to go forward…Nestle and its co-petitioners argue there were major flaws in the Ninth Circuit's holding, [including] when the court held the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged aiding-and-abetting because they had claimed the corporations sought the cheapest cocoa possible while knowing child slavery could result…The three cocoa buyers also want the high court to decide whether corporations are subject to liability under the Alien Tort Statute...

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