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



As Kiobel Turns Two: How the Supreme Court is Leaving the Details to Lower Courts

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.

Federal Cases from Foreign Places: How the Supreme Court Has Limited Foreign Disputes From Flooding U.S. Courts

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.

All Results for Transnational

Irish Court Deals Blow to Third-Party Funders

May 24, 2017 | News and Blog

Yesterday, Ireland's Supreme Court delivered a "blow" to the third party litigation funding (TPLF) industry, according to the Law Society Gazette. Read More »

Customers Sue Funder Alleging Excessive Interest Rates

May 10, 2017 | News and Blog

Six former Oasis Legal Finance customers are suing the company, asking "a federal judge to declare the interest rates charged by the company in violation of the lending laws of the state," writes Forbes/Legal Newsline. Read More »

The ILR Research Review - Spring 2017

May 08, 2017 | Research

This edition of the ILR Research Review offers valuable insights from ILR's recent research on the latest trends in litigation and the tactics and strategies entrepreneurial plaintiffs' firms are using to expand their business models and bring more lawsuits in local, state, federal, and international courts. Read More »

In the News Today - May 8, 2017

May 08, 2017 | News and Blog

Delaware's new unclaimed property rules fail to meet the standards of the August federal court ruling they were drafted to address, writes the Council on State Taxation in a letter to the state's Department of Finance. The Council argues the proposed rules violate the federal ruling "by failing to use the last known address of the last known property owner to determine which state has a priority claim." Read More »

In the News Today - May 5, 2017

May 05, 2017 | News and Blog

Companies targeted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are more frequently choosing to fight enforcement actions rather than settle. 21 enforcement actions have been announced by the CFPB thus far in 2017 and one-third of those actions have been challenged. This is a notable increase from the six challenges brought throughout the entirety of 2016. Read More »

Australian Judge Raises Questions About Litigation Financing

May 05, 2017 | News and Blog

An Australian judge raised questions earlier this year about the unregulated nature of what has become known as the third party litigation finance industry, or TPLF-a business built on financing civil lawsuits in exchange for a share of a settlement or judgment. Read More »

Litigation Funders Try "Speed Dating" For Business

May 01, 2017 | News and Blog

Law360 writes that "a few dozen litigation funders, would-be investors and lawyers scoped each other out… looking to make friends – and deals-to put private investment behind legal claims." Read More »

In the News Today - May 1, 2017

May 01, 2017 | News and Blog

Georgina Squire, head of dispute resolution at Rosling King, said as a conference last week that the increase of funding options, such as third party litigation funding (TPLF) and companies specializing in buying litigation to fund and pursue claims, will expand the volume of commercial claims in the UK "at a significant pace." Read More »

Reuters' Alison Frankel Writes on the Potential for "Real Consequences" When TPLF Funders Bank on "Failsafe Personal Injury Litigation"

April 12, 2017 | News and Blog

Reuters' Alison Frankel writes on the recent request from Xarelto manufacturers to Judge Arnold New asking that he order plaintiffs' firms in a prospective bellwether case to reveal any outside funding as the defendants are "entitled to know who is in control and who has a right to be consulted." Read More »

In the News Today - April 11, 2017

April 11, 2017 | News and Blog

The makers of Xarelto filed a motion requesting that the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas compel discovery on the topic of third-party litigation funding. Read More »

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