Over the past 15 years, there has been a sharp rise in lawsuits brought against American companies, as well as foreign companies with a substantial U.S. presence, that are premised on alleged personal or environmental injuries occurring abroad. These cases raise the question of whether U.S. courts should be the venue for cases concerning conduct occurring outside the territory of the United States. They have also been characterized by controversial and abusive tactics by plaintiffs and their lawyers.
Many of those transnational lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. by plaintiffs’ class action firms, public interest attorneys and non-governmental organizations. Some have been filed in federal courts under the 200-year old Alien Tort Statute (ATS), while many more have been brought in state courts under common law theories of liability.
These cases raise several concerns. One is the use of U.S. courts for adjudicating disputes that occurred outside of the country. It is a generally established principle that U.S. courts should not hear cases involving foreign conduct unless there is a significant nexus to the United States. By undermining this principle, these cases set a precedent that could be used to expose Americans to litigation in foreign courts over conduct occurring in the United States.
Equally troubling are the tactics used in these cases. According to ILR’s study Think Globally, Sue Locally, transnational cases are characterized by a number of features, including aggressive media tactics, organized protests and boycotts of corporate defendants, political pressure and, in some cases, outright fraud and abuse by plaintiffs’ lawyers. In the major transnational case against Chevron in Ecuador, four federal courts have found the proceedings tainted by fraud.
In April 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum that claims of wrongful conduct on foreign soil cannot be brought in U.S. courts under the ATS. This ruling has substantially limited the use of the ATS in transnational cases, but does not deter cases brought under state common law. A complete list of lawsuits against corporations under the Alien Tort Statute can be found here.
August 11, 2015
This paper explores the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court's Kiobel decision on Alien Tort Statute (ATS) litigation in lower courts, and how lower courts have struggled to determine whether Kiobel permits U.S. corporations to be sued under the ATS for alleged torts in foreign countries. Read More
October 21, 2014
This collection of essays examines the shifting legal landscape of federal claims by foreign plaintiffs in the federal courts and focuses on the most common statutes invoked by foreign plaintiffs, as well as the threshold issues of personal jurisdiction and pleading standards that govern such suits. Read More
All Results for Transnational
April 03, 2019 | News
Lawyers' Court Fight Spills Over From Florida To Texas... Read More
April 03, 2019 | Blogs
Third party litigation funders can keep their presence hidden without the judge, jury, or defendant knowing that they're bankrolling the case. But every once in a while, we get some sunlight. Last year, an executive with one of the world's largest litigation funders, IMF Bentham, admitted to The Wall Street Journal that they "make it harder and more expensive to settle cases." Now, we may know why.
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March 29, 2019 | Blogs
At a Judiciary Committee hearing this week, the Texas House of Representatives debated a trio of bills that address key issues facing the civil justice system today: The growing problem of lawsuits by cities and counties, harmful trial lawyer advertising misleading seniors into stopping their medications, and big finance firms investing in lawsuits.... Read More
March 28, 2019 | Blogs
Yesterday, a coalition of 30 business and legal organizations, led by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), wrote a letter the Advisory Committee-which writes rules for federal courts-countering funders' arguments against transparency. ... Read More
March 27, 2019 | News
U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform Chairman Brackett Denniston "re-upped" the call for third party litigation funding transparency by sending a letter to a committee of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, The Recorder reports.... Read More
March 26, 2019 | Blogs
In The Wizard of Oz, the "wizard" famously exclaims, "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" when Dorothy's dog Toto pulls back a curtain exposing him as a normal man and not a mystical being. While the self-serving quote may originate somewhere over the rainbow, it's akin to the real world-logic of today's litigation funding industry. ... Read More
March 25, 2019 | News
Funders Say They Look For Cases With Damages "10 Times" The Amount of Their Investment... Read More
March 25, 2019 | News
In a blog post, Erin Hawley of the Independent Women's Forum walked through the "troubling" development of the Washington, D.C. attorney general authorizing a private lawyer to use third party litigation funding to sue energy companies over fossil fuels. ... Read More
March 12, 2019 | News
Litigation Funders Hit the Jackpot at the Expense of Consumers... Read More
February 14, 2019 | News
National Law Journal reports that Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) reintroduced the Litigation Funding Transparency Act, which would require third party litigation funding arrangements to be disclosed in litigation.... Read More