Later this month, the United States Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments for the liability of Corporations under the Alien Tort Statute for the case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The decision to take the case is in response to a circuit split.
The Alien Tort Statute (ATS) is a statute that grants Federal District Courts jurisdiction to hear tort actions and has been operational since the Judiciary Act of 1789. The ATS provides for aliens to sue in United States Courts for breaches in international law that are "specific, universal, and obligatory." An example of a case brought under the ATS is the civil suit against Charles Taylor, former brutal Liberian President and dictator. Taylor was sued in United States District Court after being convicted criminally, and a default judgment was entered in the amount of $22 million dollars.
The current question before the court is whether corporations may be sued under the ATS for violations of international law. The Second Circuit (the Court which this case is on appeal from) has answered the question in the negative, holding that corporations may not be sued under the ATS for violations of international law.
Oral arguments of this case will take place on February 28, 2012, and a decision is expected to be handed down sometime around June 2012.
For more information, please see sources: http://www.csrandthelaw.com/2011/10/articles/litigation/alien-tort-statute/supreme-court-to-review-corporate-liability-under-the-alien-tort-statute/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_Tort_Statute.