On September 7, 2023, EarthRights International submitted an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief on behalf of former U.S. diplomats and government officials in Reid v. Doe Run Resources, Corp., a case currently pending before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case involves allegations that, operating out of Missouri and New York, several U.S. corporations and their executives authorized and directed the La Oroya Complex, a metallurgical smelting and refining complex in Peru, to emit excessive levels of toxic substances into the environment. The plaintiffs allege that these acts exposed them as children to lead and other toxic substances and caused them serious medical and developmental injuries.
The District Court in Missouri declined to abstain from hearing the case on international comity grounds. International comity is rooted in preserving foreign relations and concerns whether a United States court should decline to exercise jurisdiction where a case is more appropriately heard in a foreign court. Defendants in this case are seeking a novel application of international comity where neither the United States nor Peru government have expressed a clear interest in the case being heard in Peru, and there is no pending parallel foreign proceeding. The former U.S. diplomats and government officials, on whose behalf EarthRights submitted this brief, agree with the District Court that the absence of a statement of interest from the U.S. government weighs heavily against dismissing the case. Further, they contend that civil litigation in U.S. courts to hold U.S. corporations accountable for misconduct that harms individuals abroad aligns with long-standing U.S. foreign policy interests to ensure responsible business conduct on behalf of U.S. corporations.
The United States government has for decades expressed that U.S. corporations should be ambassadors of best business practices wherever they operate. Moreover, the United States has supported and led international initiatives to address toxic pollution and lead exposure. U.S. foreign policy commitments to responsible business conduct and the rule of law would ring hollow without the U.S. commitment that its courts would ensure accountability for U.S. business misconduct where corporate actions in the United States cause harm abroad.