Cohen Milstein represents eleven Indonesian citizens suing Exxon Mobil Corporation for human rights abuses allegedly committed by Exxon Mobil’s security personnel. The ongoing, high-profile suit, which is more than 20 years old, alleges that ExxonMobil hired and paid Indonesian soldiers to provide security at Exxon Mobil's natural gas facility in Indonesia. Plaintiffs allege that these security personnel, under ExxonMobil’s control and within the scope of employment, physically abused, sexually assaulted, tortured, and murdered their family members who lived or worked in villages within Exxon’s sprawling operations in rural Aceh, Indonesia.
On August 10, 2020, The Honorable Royce C. Lamberth for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that Plaintiffs may re-depose Exxon Mobil executives based in Indonesia, particularly as it relates to the executives’ alleged negligence in hiring and supervising the soldiers who committed these atrocities.
This cross-border human rights case was filed with the Unites States District Court for the District of Columbia in 2001 and has seen two trips to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (decided January 2007 and July 2011). Agnieszka Fryszman argued and won both Appeals. In November 2007, the US Supreme Court invited the US Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the executive branch on this petition. In June 2008, the US Supreme Court declined Exxon’s petition for certiorari.
Each time, novel issues of jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute and Torture Victim Protection Act were briefed and considered by the Court of Appeals. After the last court of appeals decision in 2011, the district court issued a ruling, denying ExxonMobil’s motion summary judgement that press accounts expected to shape how US courts are used for international corporate accountability. The 15-year-old claims may proceed, the district court concluded, because the villagers from Aceh province alleged that top figures at Exxon Mobil — historically one of the most profitable companies in the world — knowingly hired and supported local military forces who tortured, killed and sexually assaulted the villagers.
Agnieszka Fryszman and her small, but dedicated Cohen Milstein legal team have led the hard-fought litigation, handling the discovery, trial court briefing, appellate briefing, appeals court argument and Supreme Court practice, against a formidable, deep-pocketed defense. Indeed, Defense counsel has fought Cohen Milstein every step of the way to ensure that this human rights case never comes before a jury.
In addition to the unprecedented duration of this ongoing litigation and novel legal issues addressed, this case is notable among the jurists who have presided over it. In his nomination hearings for the Supreme Court now Justice Kavanaugh testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that the extraterritorial jurisdiction issues addressed in Doe v. Exxon Mobil Corp., make it one of the most influential cases over which he has presided as a judge for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Justice Kavanaugh dissented on behalf of Exxon in 2007 and 2011.
Case Name: Doe, Aceh, Indonesia v. ExxonMobil Corporation, No. 01-1357 (D.D.C.)