US Supreme Court places limits on ATS efficacy

In a result likely to have ramifications for a case just inherited by Lovells from Clifford Chance, the US Supreme Court has applied limits to the use of the politically-charged Alien Tort Statute (ATS).
The legislation allows foreigners to seek compensation in US courts even if the case has only remote US connections.

The Supreme Court held in the long-awaited case Sosa v Alvarez-Machain that the ATS, which came into being in 1789, only provides claimants with the right to bring a claim in the US – in other words, a jurisdictional tool – but that it is not a basis for a claim in itself.

As a result, ATS claims must now be brought in conjunction with other legislation, such as international law.

This will affect a claim currently being brought by a client of Lovells, Canadian oil company Talisman Energy, which is being sued under the ATS in the US by the Presbyterian Church of Sudan. Lovells inherited the case when it was joined in April by Clifford Chance litigation partner Joe Cyr.