Nestle Bid to Throw Out Child Slavery Lawsuit Rejected

Plaintiffs allege being fed scraps, not getting wages, and getting whipped

According to reports, the Supreme Court rejected a bid by Nestle S.A. and two other companies to throw out a lawsuit that alleges they are liable for the use of child slaves to harvest cocoa in the Ivory Coast.

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The decision leaves in place a December 2014 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Nestle, Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and Cargill Inc. filed by former victims of child slavery.

 

The plaintiffs in the case, Nestle Inc. v. John Doe, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 15-349, are originally from Mali and say the companies aided and abetted human rights violations through their active involvement in purchasing cocoa from the Ivory Coast, where there was an issue with child slavery. They also allege that the companies offered financial and technical assistance to local farmers in a bid to guarantee the cheapest source of cocoa.

The three plaintiffs filed the class action suit in 2005, alleging they had been trafficked from Mali as children and forced to work harvesting cocoa beans without being compensated, working up to 14 hours a day while being physically abused. According to court documents, they were kept in locked rooms and were fed food scraps. One plaintiff also said that guards would slice open the feet of child workers who tried to flee.

The appeals court indicated that the plaintiffs could update their lawsuit to see if they could meet the higher burden required under the Supreme Court ruling. Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged the court to hear the case.