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U.S. Supreme Court

Suit over Argentine ‘dirty war’ atrocities can’t be heard in California federal court, SCOTUS says

Posted Jan 14, 2014 10:46 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The due process clause bars a federal court from hearing a claim against German-based Daimler AG that alleges a subsidiary collaborated with Argentine security forces during Argentina’s “dirty war,” the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote an opinion (PDF) joined by seven other justices. “This case concerns the authority of a court in the United States to entertain a claim brought by foreign plaintiffs against a foreign defendant based on events occurring entirely outside the United States,” she wrote.

The plaintiffs had alleged Daimler subsidiary Mercedes-Benz Argentina collaborated with Argentine security forces to kidnap, detain, torture, and kill certain plant workers.

The plaintiffs had argued Daimler could be sued in California because of the state contacts by Mercedes-Benz USA, which sells cars throughout the United States. They had argued the 2011 decision Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations v. Brown permitted the suit because the car company’s contacts with California were so pervasive as to render it essentially at home in the state.

Ginsburg rejected the premise. “Exercises of personal jurisdiction so exorbitant, we hold, are barred by due process constraints on the assertion of adjudicatory authority,” Ginsburg wrote.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor concurred in the judgment.

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