Foreign ATS Plaintiffs May Have to Exhaust Local Remedies

Alexis Sarei says he risks "grave harm" if he returns to Papua New Guinea to sue mining giant Rio Tinto for what Sarei claims was the destruction of the land, health and livelihoods of his fellow villagers during the 1970s and 1980s.

So in 2000 Sarei and 21 others launched a class action under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Rio Tinto's British and Australian subsidiaries.

New Defense

"It's good for defendants," says Rio Tinto's lawyer Jack Londen, a Tokyo-based partner with Morrison & Foerster. "It recognizes that cases brought under the Alien Tort Statute that arise in jurisdictions that have functioning independent judiciaries ... may be subject to a defense that wasn't recognized before."

Cristin Schmitz

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