Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena Revives Nestle Child Slavery Lawsuit

Published : Monday, October 29, 2018 | 4:29 AM

The U.S. federal appeals court in Pasadena reinstated Tuesday a lawsuit filed in 2005 by a group of former child slaves accusing Nestle USA and Cargill Co. of perpetuating child slavery at cocoa farms in Ivory Coast.

Judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena last week reinstated a lawsuit filed in 2005 by a group of former child slaves accusing Nestle USA and Cargill Co. of perpetuating child slavery at cocoa farms in Ivory Coast.

The Court ruled that the appellants could proceed with their claims despite the alleged abuses having occurred overseas. The ruling was unanimous.

“In sum, the allegations paint a picture of overseas slave labor that defendants perpetuated from headquarters in the United States,” the ruling said.

The Reuters report said the court did not rule on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims.

The plaintiffs are originally from Mali and accused the companies of aiding and abetting human rights violations by continuing to buy cocoa from Ivory Coast.

The original suit was against Nestle USA, Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and Cargill Inc. Court records showed Archer-Daniels-Midland was dismissed from the lawsuit in 2016.

The case has since made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2016 rejected the companies’ bid to have the lawsuit thrown out.

Nestle USA and the other companies have denied the allegations.

In a statement Tuesday by Nestle, the company said it had explicit policies against child labor. The company said it disagreed with the 9th Circuit decision and was assessing appellate options, according to the report.

A district court in Los Angeles dismissed the lawsuit twice, most recently in March 2017, when it said the former child slaves’ claims were barred by U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have made it harder for plaintiffs to sue corporations in U.S. courts for alleged violations overseas.

The former child slaves alleged that the companies provided financial and technical assistance to local farmers to guarantee the cheapest source of cocoa. The 9th Circuit appeals court said those “kickbacks” were supported by regular inspections of Ivory Coast cocoa farms by U.S. company employees who allegedly knew of the financing arrangements, the report said.

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