Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: April 3, 2017
  • Case #: 16-499
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 808 F.3d 144 (2d Cir. 2015)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the Alien Tort Statute authorizes claims against corporate defendants?

Petitioners are foreign nationals and victims of terrorist attacks. They brought an action under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), which gives federal district courts jurisdiction over any “civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” Petitioners alleged that Respondent, a bank, knowingly and intentionally financed terrorism that caused Petitioners’ injuries, in violation of the law of nations.  After the trial judge bifurcated other claims, a jury found Respondent liable under the ATS for knowingly providing financial services to terrorist groups and that Respondent’s actions substantially contributed to 22 terrorist attacks.  Meanwhile, in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (2014), a divided panel of the Second Circuit held that the ATS does not permit plaintiffs to pursue claims against corporate defendants, notwithstanding contrary rulings by other circuits. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Kiobel, but resolved the case on alternative grounds. Respondent, relying on Kiobel, moved to dismiss Petitioners’ ATS claim and the district court granted the motion.  The Second Circuit affirmed.  On appeal to the Supreme Court, Petitioners assert the Second Circuit’s bar on corporate liability under the ATS is in error. Petitioners draw additional support from four other circuits that have considered the same question reached results contrary to that of the Second Circuit.

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