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Doe v. Exxon Mobil Corp.

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20136
Nos. 01-1357, (D.D.C., 07/06/2015) (Lamberth, J.)

A district court held that Indonesian villagers living near an energy corporation's natural gas development facility may go forward with their Alien Tort Statute claims for human rights abuses allegedly caused by security personnel at the site. Because of an ongoing civil war at the time the alleged events took place, the corporation hired soldiers to provide security at the site and exercised substantial control over their activities. The corporation filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the presumption against extraterritoriality applied. But the court disagreed, at least with regard to the corporation's U.S. subsidiary. The plaintiffs alleged that company executives provided vehicles and other supplies to security personnel and that they approved plans that put security in close proximity to local villagers. The plaintiffs also alleged that the security personnel used company facilities, supplies, and vehicles to commit various human rights abuses. These allegations, which are based on the knowledge of company executives within the United States, are sufficient to demonstrate the mens rea and actus reus for aiding and abetting liability under the Alien Tort Statute, and they sufficiently "touch and concern" the United States so as to displace the presumption against extraterritoriality. The court, however, dismissed claims against the corporation's Indonesian subsidiary because the relevant conduct by the subsidiary's employees did not occur in the United States.