The United States Supreme Court has backed Nestle and Cargill in a lawsuit alleging the chocolate willfully purchased cocoa beans from farms in Africa that used child slave labor.
Six Malian men filed a lawsuit against both corporations claiming that they were trafficked from Mali to labor on Ivory Coast cocoa farms as children. The men say they were forced to work extremely long hours and that they were kept at night in locked shacks.
These “are former child slaves seeking compensation from two U.S. corporations which maintain a system of child slavery and forced labor in their Ivory Coast supply chain as a matter of corporate policy to gain a competitive advantage in the U.S. market,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Paul L. Hoffman, told the court, per The Washington Post.
The justices ruled 8-1 in favor of the food companies.
“Although respondents’ injuries occurred entirely overseas, the Ninth Circuit held that respondents could sue in federal court because the defendant corporations allegedly made ‘major operational decisions’ in the United States. The Ninth Circuit erred by allowing this suit to proceed,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a majority opinion for the court.
Hoffman expressed his disappointment over the ruling, calling it “the narrowest possible loss we could have had in this instance.”
“Child labor is unacceptable. That is why we are working so hard to prevent it,” a Nestle spokesperson in a statement.
“Nestlé never engaged in the egregious child labor alleged in this suit, and we remain unwavering in our dedication to [combating] child labor in the cocoa industry and to our ongoing work with partners in government, [nongovernmental organizations] and industry to tackle this complex, global issue,” the spokesperson said.