Nestlé bid to throw out cocoa child labor lawsuit in US Supreme Court rejected

By Oliver Nieburg contact

- Last updated on GMT

Case proceeds: US Supreme Court refuses to review earlier decision that rejected attempts to dismiss the case. Photo: iStock - fstockfoto
Case proceeds: US Supreme Court refuses to review earlier decision that rejected attempts to dismiss the case. Photo: iStock - fstockfoto
A civil lawsuit accusing Nestlé, Cargill and ADM of aiding and abetting child slavery on Ivorian cocoa farms has again thwarted attempts to have the case thrown.

The US Supreme Court yesterday rejected Nestlé’s bid to have an earlier high court ruling - allowing the case to proceed - reheard in the top court.

It denied Nestlé’s ‘writ of certiorari’ that would have meant the Supreme Court would review the high court decision.

The lawsuit brought by three former Malian child slaves in 2005, alleges the Swiss chocolate giant, ADM and Cargill were complicit in their forced work on cocoa farms in West Africa. Claims all companies firmly dispute.

Supreme Court may hear case eventually, says Nestlé

Edie Burge, corporate and brand affairs at Nestlé USA, told ConfectioneryNews the Supreme Court's ruling was "not at all a decision on the merits"​ and added that the court may end up hearing the case anyway.

"The announcement simply means that lower courts will have to engage in further proceedings first,"​ she said. "We look forward to those proceedings in the lower courts, and believe very strongly that the law and facts are on our side."

She added that the use of child labor is unacceptable and goes against everything Nestle stands for. "Nestle is committed to following and respecting all international laws and is dedicated to the goal of eradicating child labor from our cocoa supply chain," ​she said.

In earlier court documents, Nestlé, Cargill and ADM contended the case should be thrown as they allege companies cannot aid and abet crimes outside the US under the Alien Tort Statute. The firms also claim they lack the mens rea​ (the mental element or purpose) of the crime and say simply knowing child slavery exists on cocoa farms is insufficient. 

Senior circuit judge DW Nelson said in an earlier ruling​ in September 2014 that the companies allegdly supported the use of child slavery "driven by the goal to reduce costs in any way possible...". 

The scale of child labor

In July last year, Tulane University reported​ a 21% rise in hazardous child labor in Côte D’Ivoire and Ghana between the 2008/09 and 2013/14 harvest seasons. 

It found 2.03m children working in hazardous cocoa-related activity in these countries such as carrying heavy loads, being exposed to agro-chemicals, using sharp tools, or long working hours or during the night.

Separate court case

child poverty labor
Photo: iStock - ajfilgud

Nestlé is facing a separate class action lawsuit brought last year by consumer rights law firm Hagens Berman that alleges​ Nestlé - as well as Mars and Hershey -  have violated Californian law by failing to disclose its suppliers in Côte d’Ivoire rely on child laborers to procure cocoa. Nestlé and Hershey yesterday filed motion to dismiss the case, following a similar move by Mars earlier.

[The cases are: Hodsdon v. Mars, Inc. et al - Case No.: 3:15-cv-04450 /  McCoy v. Nestle USA, Inc et al - Case No.: 3:15-cv-04451 / Dana v. The Hershey Company et al - Case No.: 3:15-cv-04453]

More lawsuits to come?

Fernando Morales-de la Cruz, founder of Cafe for Change, - which is advocating a shared value system paid for by consumers under its Cacao For Change initiative - expects further lawsuits.

“This will be one of many companies that will face similar lawsuits,” ​he said. “You can’t just buy something and not worry where it comes from.”

He argued that while many children in West African cocoa growing communities suffered child malnourishment and high infant mortality rates, the industry could face false advertising claims when making ethical claims on chocolate products.

He added that certification organizations may also be hit.

Asked whether such class action lawsuits were opportunistic, Morales-de la Cruz said: “It will change the world. It will make journalists write the truth about what’s happening in the industry.”

He said that reporters such as CNN’s Richard Quest – who hosted the documentary ‘Cocoa-nomics’​ for the network – had the stage to reach large audiences and influence public opinion.

“When these suits take place, consumers start thinking something is wrong,”​ said the Café for Change founder.

“The industry believes in shared value where the consumer is [not where the raw materials come from] – because these are the people nobody sees.”

[John Doe I, et al v. Nestle, USA, et al - case no: 10-56739​ ​]

Related topics: Chocolate, Commodities, Cocoa & Sugar, Nestlé

Related news

Show more

1 comment

Free Trade is Slavery

Posted by Jackie Cox,

Free Trade with virtual slave nations enacted by Willie Clinton is the resurrection of slavery back into the world, along with its ugly Twin Nobility, concealed under a host of names, our political circus has become the world class Mafia puppeteers, enacting laws bribed into enactment by the MOB's Lobbie bribes by our occupational governments by gangs of lawyers, judges, banksters, gangsters, homosexuality/sodomy pretending the human waste canal is the center point of love in marriage between 2 victims of sexual predation. Our highest office is held by an unethical, amoral, satanic, demonic monster, destroying the moral fabric of our Christian nation, Clinton' taking down Alexander Hamilton Fair Customs and Duty Law that made importers pay same taxation as domestic producers, has thus far exported more than 90,000,000 American middle class jobs, more than 11,000,000 workers have left the job sector in the last 7 years, more leave each day, as classes divide into hirelings, servants, slaves, and the non-working glass where entire communities develop alternate societies, like the Middle Ages. The new Talmudic world economy goes unreported in any news media as their banking cartel and trading clan take productive assets from common people the world over, backed by Laws we have resurrected Royalty who determine what we can do and saw. People who object fill the prisons, asylums, group homes, homeless centers. The ranks of discharged civil service, military top commanders and near 1/3rd of professional military have left service because they uphold their oath to honor our constitution, ignored by the current White House tyrannical regime as the nation divides into chaos under the helm of a president enforcing a homosexual manifesto into our nation. Demonic rules !

Dare to not publish these true words and you conspire to force homosexuality (sexual predation) throughout all sectors funded with taxpayer money by an occupational government who does not represent the people of the United States of America.

Your conduct to disregard truth and dishonor freedom of speech will be noted according to your actions. This is not a threat, it's a promise. Time Changes all things---Only Absolute Truth passes time.

Conduct yourselves accordingly

Report abuse