By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A U.S. Supreme Court‘s refusal to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to hold Nestle, the world’s largest food maker, accountable for using child slaves to harvest cocoa in Africa looks set to be a landmark battle over labor used overseas, lawyers said.
The ruling sends the case back to federal court in California and brings closer the possibility of a trial, said Terrence Collingsworth, executive director at International Rights Advocates who is involved in the lawsuit.
Their lawsuit claims that, aware of the child slavery problem, the companies offered financial and technical assistance to local farmers in a bid to guarantee the cheapest source of cocoa.
The plaintiffs, who claimed they were held captive, beaten and forced to work long hours with no pay, “are delighted that their long saga has moved an important step closer to resolution,” Collingsworth told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“On behalf of current and former child slaves in the cocoa sector in West Africa, the plaintiffs hope their case will help to end this inhumane practice,” Collingsworth said.
Specifically, the Supreme Court left in place a 2014 Appeals Court ruling that refused to dismiss the case.
“It is a victory,” said Marco Simons, a legal expert at EarthRights International in Washington, D.C. “There’s still several steps to…