John Doe VIII, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et al., No. 09-7125 (D.C. Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
This case stemmed from a contract between the Indonesian government and the Exxon Mobil Corporation (Exxon), a United States corporation, and several of its wholly owned subsidiaries where Exxon operated a large natural gas extraction and processing facility in the Aceh province. Plaintiffs were fifteen Indonesian villagers. Eleven villagers filed a complaint in 2001 alleging that Exxon's security forces committed murder, torture, sexual assault, battery, and false imprisonment in violation of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), 28 U.S.C. 1350, and various common law torts. Four villagers alleged that in 2007, Exxon committed various common law torts. All plaintiffs alleged that Exxon took actions both in the United States and at its facility in the Aceh province that resulted in their injuries. Plaintiffs challenged the subsequent dismissal of their claims and Exxon filed a cross-appeal, inter alia, raising corporate immunity for the first time. The court concluded that aiding and abetting liability was well established under the ATS. The court further concluded that neither the text, history, nor purpose of the ATS supported corporate immunity for torts based on heinous conduct allegedly committed by its agents in violation of the law of nations. The court affirmed the dismissal of the TVPA claims in view of recent precedent of the court. The court concluded, however, that Exxon's objections to justiciability were unpersuasive and that the district court erred in ruling that plaintiffs lacked prudential standing to bring their non-federal tort claims and in the choice of law determination. The court finally concluded that Exxon's challenge to the diversity of parties in the complaint at issue was to be resolved initially by the district court. Therefore, the court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' TVPA claims, reversed the dismissal of the ATS claims at issue, along with plaintiffs' non-federal tort claims, and remanded the cases to the district court.