Case Against Corporations Under the Alien Tort Statute Is Allowed To Proceed

On November 1, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Eastern Virginia allowed a lawsuit by four Iraqis to proceed against two U.S. corporations for their alleged direct participation in torture and other illegal conduct at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

The case, Al Shimari v. CACI, which was commenced in June 2008, has had a complex history.[1]

In March 2009, the district court granted the corporations’ motion to dismiss the claims under the U.S. Alien Tort Statute (ATS), but denied the motion to dismiss the other claims under state common law for assault, battery, sexual assault, infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring and supervision. (Al Shimari v. CACI, 657 F. Supp. 2d 700 (E.D. Va. 2009).)

In September 2011 a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 2-1, reversed the district court’s denial of the motion to dismiss the state law claims on the ground that the corporate defendants were immune.

However, in May 2012, that court, en banc, dismissed the defendants’ appeal on the procedural ground that the appellate court had no jurisdiction over the premature appeal. The appellate court, therefore, remanded the case to the district court. (Al Shimari v. CACI Int’l, Inc., 679 F.3d 205 (4th Cir. 2012) (en banc).)

On October 11, 2012, the plaintiffs moved the district court to reverse its March 2009 decision and reinstate the ATS claims. (Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion Seeking Reinstatement of the Alien Tort Statute Claims, Al Shimari v. CACI, No.1:08CV827 (E.D. Va. Oct. 11, 2012).)

On November 1st the court did just that with an order to follow. (Civil Minutes, Al Shimari v. CACI, No.1:08CV827 (E.D. Va. Nov. 1, 2012).)

This plaintiffs’ victory may be short-lived because the U.S. Supreme Court has a case under advisement on the issue of whether corporations may be held liable under the ATS.

[1] See generally Center for Const’l Rights, Al Shimari v. CACI.