Doe vs.Nestlé, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland Lawsuit

UPDATE: May 5th 2015- Nestlé, Cargill and ADM were denied their appeal allowing the law suit to go forward.

In a nutshell, on 14 July 2005, three former slaves from The Ivory Coast sued Nestle USA, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland for aiding and abetting slavery. The court case was thrown out but the plaintiffs appealed and won their appeal in 2014. 

What winning the appeal means:  By winning the appeal, the court that originally threw out the case has to reassess the lawsuit with additional parameters. It was granted that the former slaves were allowed to sue the candy companies under a statute called the Alien Tort Statute. ATS, written in 1798 allows foreign citizens to seek remedies in the United States courts for human-rights violations for conduct committed outside the U.S. So now the original US Court has to reexamine the laws suit under this framework.

What does this means in reference to the children still enslaved on the plantations:  We can assume that this court case will take numerous years to see a ruling. In the interim, creating awareness around this lawsuit is very powerful. The defendants in the case, (Nestle USA, Cargill and ADM) are not denying the use of forced labor on the coco plantations. Yet, the defendants argue that they are not liable for it. The fact that this lawsuit is in existence proves that they are well aware of the human-rights violation, yet they insist on finding the cheapest source of cocoa to maximize their profits.  

The more publicity on this lawsuit, the more apt the companies will be to remedy the situation as they once promised in 2001 under the Harkin-Engel Protocol. Our mission is not to boycott cocoa or chocolate, but to put pressure on the powers involved to implement what is already in place. 


Court Document of the US Ninth District Court of Appeals  Doe vs. Nestle USA

Article by Bob Egelko in SF Gate 

Wikipedia:  Alien Tort Statute


In 2012 after Hershey denied a request of LAMPERS to examine internal documents LAMPERS filed a 220 complaint which would give them access. LAMPERS was seeking details about Hershey's cocoa suppliers.  LAMPERS had two reasons to be concerned.  First, on ethical and moral grounds and secondly, if former cocoa slaves are allowed to sue (See about court case) then they wouldn't want to tie their money up in a company what could be facing thousands of lawsuits.

Hershey's fought to dismiss the complaint on lack of evidence of mismanagement.  But, the ruling Judge, Vice Chancellor Laster said that suspicion is enough to let the complaint go through.


The Court Document

Law 360 article about the case