Ford wins dismissal in U.S. of claims it aided apartheid

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co. won dismissal of a lawsuit claiming the company aided South Africa's apartheid regime, with a judge saying it couldn't be sued in the U.S. over actions of their units overseas.

International Business Machines Corp. won a similar ruling by the court on Thursday.

That victims of apartheid can't pursue their 12-year-old case against companies they alleged supplied computer systems to the former regime and vehicles to security forces is "regrettable," U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said in a ruling Thursday in Manhattan.

The judge said she was bound by earlier court rulings barring U.S. lawsuits over corporate conduct that occurs in foreign countries, including a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a lawsuit accusing two foreign-based units of Royal Dutch Shell Plc of facilitating torture and executions in Nigeria.

The high court ruled that the 1789 Alien Tort Statute, which the apartheid victims sued under, generally doesn't apply to conduct beyond U.S. borders.

The law has been a favorite legal tool of human-rights' activists seeking to hold corporations liable in the U.S.

The plaintiffs in the case, black South Africans who were victims of apartheid-era violence and discrimination, say the companies knowingly helped the former regime.

In April Scheindlin ruled that corporations may be liable for human rights abuses committed overseas.

She said then that the plaintiffs could seek to file an amended complaint showing that the companies' actions touched the U.S. with "sufficient force" to overcome the legal presumption that they aren't liable under the Alien Tort law.

The proposed new allegations, while more detailed, are essentially the same as the earlier claims, Scheindlin said Thursday.

Apartheid, or the institutionalized system of racial segregation, came to an end in South Africa in the early 1990s, in a series of steps that led to the formation of a democratic government in 1994.

ATTENTION COMMENTERS: Automotive News has monitored a significant increase in the number of personal attacks and abusive comments on our site. We encourage our readers to voice their opinions and argue their points. We expect disagreement. We do not expect our readers to turn on each other. We will be aggressively deleting all comments that personally attack another poster, or an article author, even if the comment is otherwise a well-argued observation. If we see repeated behavior, we will ban the commenter. Please help us maintain a civil level of discourse.

Email Newsletters
  • General newsletters
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Mondays)
  • (As needed)
  • Video newscasts
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Saturdays)
  • Special interest newsletters
  • (Thursdays)
  • (Tuesdays)
  • (Monthly)
  • (Monthly)
  • (Wednesdays)
  • (Bimonthly)
  • Special reports
  • (As needed)
  • (As needed)
  • Communication preferences
  • You can unsubscribe at any time through links in these emails. For more information, see our Privacy Policy.