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Montevideo, March 23rd 2019 - 15:23 UTC

US Supreme Court raises doubts about corporation responsibility during Argentina’s ‘dirty war’

Thursday, October 17th 2013 - 05:34 UTC
Full article 6 comments
Argentina Dirty War survivors are seeking reparations for alleged crimes of a foreign company in US courts Argentina Dirty War survivors are seeking reparations for alleged crimes of a foreign company in US courts

A majority of US Supreme Court justices raised doubts this week over whether Germany’s Daimler-Chrysler can be sued in federal court for allegations that a subsidiary violated the human rights of workers at a plant in Argentina during the last military dictatorship that was in power from 1976-1983.

The high court listened somewhat sceptically to arguments that it should uphold a lower court decision that would allow Argentina Dirty War survivors to seek reparations for alleged crimes of a foreign company in US courts.

Several justices on both sides of the court’s ideological divide voiced concerns about how the San Francisco-based Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals handled the case when it ruled in favour of human rights plaintiffs, raising the possibility of the case ultimately being sent back to that court for further review.

Several justices seemed to think that allowing this case to move forward would open US courts to lawsuits from around the world that may not have anything to do with issues they think belong in a US court.

“So if a Mercedes-Benz vehicle rolled over in Poland and injured the Polish driver and passenger, lawsuit for the design defect could be brought forward in California?” asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Kevin Russell, lawyer for victims from Argentina, said that based on their interpretation of the law, the answer would be yes.

“It doesn’t lead to good results when you assume something that is obviously in error,” Justice Elena Kagan responded.

The argument pushed by the plaintiffs focused on complex legal questions about when US federal courts have jurisdiction over certain types of cases.

Relatives of workers at an Argentina-based plant operated by Mercedes-Benz, a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler claimed the company had punished plant workers viewed by managers as union agitators and that it had worked with the Argentine military and police forces.

The company, however, has argued that since it is a German corporation, it should not be sued in a state court by foreign nationals for actions a subsidiary allegedly took in a foreign country.

At the end of the day the Daimler case concerns whether a US court has the authority to hear a case against a foreign corporation “solely on the fact that an indirect corporate subsidiary performs services on behalf of the defendant” in the state where the lawsuit was filed, which in this instance was California.

 

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  • Welsh Wizard

    Personally, my heart goes out to those who suffered but this ruling pierces the corporate veil. I am very surprised at the decision of the lower court...

    Oct 17th, 2013 - 10:56 am 0
  • Gonzo22

    “US Supreme Court raises doubts about corporation responsibility during Argentina’s dirty war’” The doubts are not about the corporation responsibility, the doubts are about the court's authority to hear a case against a foreign corporation, it's about jurisdiction.

    Oct 17th, 2013 - 12:31 pm 0
  • GFace

    It sort of BS opens up a lovely can of worms, and has been a hot matter of debate in the US before this with other types of post-generational reparations. If I can't sue the people who killed my family, I will sue Kevin Bacon since he's six degrees from everyone. This is what galls me about bogus amnesty and years-late-dollars-(and-necks)-short revisiting these mistakes either out of delated justice of cynical political expedience. By the time people get around to getting justice, the people who did it are dead, senile, or under “house-arrest” or have such a CYA network of anonymous little-Eichmans that genuine retribution is difficult to impossible, and angry and embittered survivors take their pound of genuinely-deserved flesh from third and even fourth parties who may have had nothing to do with the atrocities.

    Oct 17th, 2013 - 03:03 pm 0
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