Posts Tagged ‘United States Supreme Court’

Hilary Young, “Adding Insult to Injury in Corporate Defamation Damages”

September 3, 2013

Hilary Young (University of New Brunswick – Fredericton – Faculty of Law) has posted “Adding Insult to Injury in Corporate Defamation Damages”. Here’s the abstract:

The law of defamation treats corporations almost identically to natural persons. In most common law countries, corporations may bring defamation actions, and the elements are the same for corporate plaintiffs as for natural person plaintiffs, as are the defences. So too, are the principles for awarding damages.

Both people and corporations have valuable reputations worthy of legal protection. However, given the significantly different effect of reputational injury on humans than on corporations, the principles applied in quantifying damages to each should differ. Aggravating factors relating to emotional injuries should not be considered in assessing reputational injury to corporations, because corporations cannot suffer such injuries. Specifically, I focus on the relevance to the quantification of damages of: a) the defendant’s failure to apologize; b) the defendant’s malice; and c) the aim of vindicating reputation. Examples are drawn primarily from Canadian law but also from the laws of other common law countries.

The article first argues against treating a defendant’s failure to apologize to a corporation as a factor aggravating damages. The only relevance to a corporation of an apology is as a form of setting the record straight. Thus, an apology may mitigate damages but a failure to apologize will often have no effect on damages. Yet the law treats a failure to apologize as aggravating damages.

Similarly, the defendant’s malice is considered a factor aggravating damages, but since corporations cannot be upset, embarrassed or insulted, it is not clear that malice should be relevant to calculating their compensatory damages.

Finally, courts should no longer award damages in order to vindicate corporate reputation. The interest in human dignity may justify the vindicatory goal of defamation law. However, given that corporations have no dignity to protect, and given a number of problems associated with attempting to award damages to vindicate reputation, it is not justifiable to award corporations damages to vindicate their reputations.

Download a pdf copy of the paper via SSRN here.

Alexandra D. Lahav, “The Case for ‘Trial by Formula’”

October 25, 2011

Alexandra D. Lahav (University of Connecticut – School of Law) has posted “The Case for ‘Trial by Formula’”, Texas Law Review, 2012 (forthcoming). The abstract reads:

The civil justice system tolerates inconsistent outcomes in cases brought by similarly situated litigants. One reason for this is that in cases such as Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the Supreme Court has increasingly emphasized liberty over equality. The litigants’ right to a “day in court” has overshadowed their right to equal treatment. However, an emerging jurisprudence at the district court level is asserting the importance of what this Article calls “outcome equality” – equal results reached in similar cases. Taking the example of mass torts litigation, this Article explains how innovative procedures such as sampling are a solution to the problem of inconsistent outcomes. Outcome equality, achieved through statistical adjudication, is gaining force on the ground. Despite the Supreme Court’s principled stance in favor of liberty in a series of recent opinions, a victory for outcome equality will improve our civil justice system.

To date, the discussion about civil litigation reform has focused on the conflict between the individual’s right to participation and society’s interest in the efficient disposition of the great volume of outstanding litigation. This conflict is real and is particularly troublesome in mass torts, where tens of thousands of plaintiffs file related cases making it impossible for the courts to hold a hearing for each claimant. But the fixation on this conflict ignores the fact that an individual’s right to equal treatment is also a critical value and can conflict with the individual’s right to participation. This Article reframes the debate about procedural justice in the mass torts context as a conflict between liberty and equality rather than liberty and efficiency. The rights at stake are not only the individual’s right to a day in court to pursue his claim as he wishes, but also the right to be treated as others are treated in similar circumstances. This Article defends district court attempts to achieve equality among litigants by adopting statistical methods and advocates greater rigor in the use of these methods so that courts can more effectively promote outcome equality.

You may download a pdf copy of the paper via SSRN here.

SCOTUS grants cert. in ATS case: Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum

October 17, 2011

John Bellinger at Lawfare reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. 

Briefly, on September 17, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a 2-1 split decision,  ruled that the Alien Torts Statute (ATS) grants U.S. courts jurisdiction over alleged violations of international law by individuals only, not by corporations. Essentially, the majority opinion held that corporations cannot be sued under the ATS for violations of customary international law because “the concept of corporate liability . . . has not achieved universal recognition or acceptance of a norm in the relations of States with each other.”  (Slip op. at 49).

The two issue presented before the U.S. Supreme Court are:

(1) Whether the issue of corporate civil tort liability under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, is a merits question or instead an issue of subject matter jurisdiction; and

(2) whether corporations are immune from tort liability for violations of the law of nations such as torture, extrajudicial executions or genocide may instead be sued in the same manner as any other private party defendant under the ATS for such egregious violations.

The Kiobel appeal is joined with Mohamad v. Rajoub which will address the issue:

Whether the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 permits actions against defendants that are not natural persons

SCOTUS Blog has full coverage, including briefs and documents here and here.

Murray et al., Exaggerated Rumours of the Death of an Alien Tort: Corporations, Human Rights and the Peculiar Case of Kiobel”

August 24, 2011
Corporate America Hallway

David Kinley and Odette Murray (University of Sydney – Faculty of Law) and Joe W. “Chip” Pitts III (Stanford Law School) have published “Exaggerated Rumours of the Death of an Alien Tort: Corporations, Human Rights and the Peculiar Case of Kiobel”, Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 57-94, 2011/Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 11/48.

The abstract reads:

Over the past 15 years or so, we have become accustomed to assuming that corporations are proper subjects of litigation for alleged infringements of the ‘law of nations’ under the Alien Tort Statute (‘ATS’). But, in a dramatic reversal of this line of reasoning, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum 2010 (‘Kiobel’), has dismissed this assumption and concluded that corporations cannot be sued under the ATS. This article explores the Court’s reasoning and the ramifications of the decision, highlighting the ways in which the Kiobel judgment departs from both Supreme Court and Second Circuit precedent. The authors take to task the critical failure of the majority in Kiobel to distinguish between the requirements of legal responsibility at international law and that which is necessary to invoke ATS jurisdiction in the US District Courts. In the context of the maturing debates over the human rights responsibilities of corporations, the authors point to the political as well as legal policy implications of Kiobel and underscore the reasons why the case has already attracted such intense interest and will continue to excite attention as a US Supreme Court challenge looms.

The .pdf copy of the article is available from SSRN here.

* Readers should take note of the recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in  John Doe VIII v. Exxon Mobil Corp.. U.S. Court of Appeals (D.C. Circuit, No. 09-7125, July 8, 2011)) which expressly rejected the Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum decision on the application of the ATS to corporate conduct.

U.S. Supreme Court Decision Narrows Personal Jurisdiction Over Foreign Manufacturers

July 11, 2011
Seal of the Supreme Court of the United States

Image via Wikipedia

On June 27, 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered its decision in n J. McIntyre Machinery Ltd. v. Nicastro, No. 09-1343 ["Nicastro"] [pdf]. In Nicastro, the Respondent Nicastro injured his hand while using a metal-shearing machine manufactured in England by J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. (J. McIntyre), both incorporated and carrying on business there. Nicastro filed a product liability claim in the New Jersey state court where the accident happened, but J. McIntyre moved to dismiss  for lack of personal jurisdiction. Nicastro’s jurisdictional claim was based on three primary jurisdictional facts:

1. A U. S. distributor agreed to sell J. McIntyre’s machines in the U.S.;

2. J. McIntyre representatives attended trade shows in several States, albeit not in New Jersey; and

3. no greater than four J. McIntyre machines (the record indicates only one), including the alleged defective machine was shipped to New Jersey. (more…)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,835 other followers

%d bloggers like this: