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Supreme Court docket dismisses baby slavery lawsuit in opposition to Nestle and Cargill

The judges found that even after 15 years of litigation, the plaintiffs could not prove that both companies knew that certain cocoa farms and cooperatives were using child labor.

The United States Supreme Court ruled that a group of ex-child slaves cannot sue two American chocolate companies.

According to USA Today, the lawsuit is closed after a 15-year trial. The first complaint was made by six citizens of the West African state of Mali who claim they were smuggled into Ivory Coast to work as slaves on cocoa plantations.

After arriving in Ivory Coast, the plaintiffs – then children – had to work up to 14 hours a day. They were beaten regularly and had to sleep in narrow, locked rooms.

In return for their work, the children received little more than the food they needed for their most basic physical needs.

Together, the plaintiffs tried to hold Nestle and Cargill Inc. liable for their slavery, alleging that industrial practices were conducive to human trafficking.

While foreign nationals can sometimes sue American companies for crimes committed overseas, Nestlé and Cargill alleged that they are making honest efforts to source slave-free cocoa and that they should not be held responsible for the independent actions of cocoa plantation owners.

A man holds cocoa beans. Image via Flickr / user: dfataustralianaid. (CCA-BY-2.0).

However, Judge Clarence Thomas ruled that the former slaves had no legal standing as the alleged wrongdoing took place entirely outside of the United States.

In previous arguments, Judge Stephen Breyer noted that plaintiffs alleged that Nestle and Cargill simply engaged in wrongdoing by doing business with slave traders, whether or not they knew about the practice.

Breyer suspected that continuing the lawsuit could have massive consequences.

“They don’t even claim that they actually knew about child labor,” Judge Samuel Alito said at a December hearing. “Is it too much to ask after 15 years to explicitly state that the […] The defendants standing before us knew specifically that forced child labor was being used on the farms or farmers’ cooperatives?

While the court acknowledged that Nestle and Cargill provided technical and financial assistance to farms that may have used slave labor, the judges said there was no reason to believe that business decisions made in the United States encouraged illegal labor practices overseas .

Terry Collingsworth, executive director of International Rights Advocates – one of the groups representing ex-slaves – said the Supreme Court decision was a huge disappointment.

“[Nestle and Cargill] They made the budgets, they made the planning, the business – all of those things were done from the US, ”said Collingsworth.

Collingsworth told Fortune that he and his legal team plan to file another lawsuit alleging that certain Nestle and Cargill business decisions facilitate or otherwise encourage child slavery.

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Supreme Court: Former child slaves cannot sue US chocolate companies for child labor in West Africa

US Supreme Court blocks child slavery lawsuit against chocolate companies

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