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Abdullahi v. Pfizer

January 30, 2009

RABI ABDULLAHI, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF HER DAUGHTER LUBABATAU ABDULLAHI, SALISU ABULLAHI, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF HIS SON ABULLIAHI {MANUFI} SALISU, ALASAN ABDULLAHI, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF HIS DAUGHTER FIRDAUSI ABDULLAHI, ALI HASHIMU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF HIS DAUGHTER SULEIMAN, MUHAMMADU INUWA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF HIS SON ABDULLAHI M. INUWA, MAGAJI ALH LADEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF HIS SON KABIRU ISYAKU, ALHAJI MUSTAPHA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF HIS DAUGHTER ASMA`U MUSTAPHA, SULEIMAN UMAR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF HIS SON BUHARI SULEIMAN, ZAINAB ABDU, A MINOR, BY HER MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, HAJA ABDULLAHI, HAJI ABDULLAHI, INDIVIDUALLY, FIRDAUSI ABDULLAHI, A MINOR, BY HER FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN ABDULLAHI MADAWAKI, ABDULLAHI MADAWAKI, INDIVIDUALLY, SANI ABDULLAHI, A MINOR, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, SANI ABDULLAHI, ABDULLAHI ADO, A MINOR, BY HIS MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, AISHA ADO, AISHA ADO, INDIVIDUALLY, ABDUMAJID ALI, A MINOR, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, ALHAJI YUSUF ALI, NURA MUHAMMAD ALI, A MINOR, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, MUHAMMAD ALI, MUHAMMAD ALI, INDIVIDUALLY, UMAR BADAMASI, A MINOR, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, MALAM BADAMASI ZUBAIRU, MALAM BADAMASI ZUBAIRU, INDIVIDUALLY, MUHAMMADU FATAHU DANLADI, A MINOR, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, ALHAJI DANLADI IBRAHIM, ALHAJI DANALDI IBRAHIM, INDIVIDUALLY, DALHA HAMZA, A MINOR, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN MALAM HAMZA GWAMMAJA, MALAM GWAMMAJA, INDIVIDUALLY, TASIU HARUNA, A MINOR, BY HIS GUARDIAN MUKHTAR SALEH, MUKHTAR SALEH, INDIVIDUALLY, MUHYIDDEEN HAASAN, A MINOR, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, TIJJANI HASSAN, TIJJANI HASSAN, INDIVIDUALLY, KAWU ADAMU IBRAHIM, A MINOR, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, MALAM ABAMUS IBRAHIM ADAMU, ALHAJI IBRAHIM HARUNA, INDIVIDUALLY, MALLAM IDRIS, INDIVIDUALLY, YUSUF IDRIS, A MINOR, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURALL GUARDIAN, IDRIS UMAR, IDRIS UMAR, INDIVIDUALLY, HAFSAT ISA, A MINOR, BY HER FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN,, ISA MUHAMMED ISA, ISA MUHAMMED ISA, INDIVIDUALLY, TAJU ISA, A MINOR, BY HER FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, MALAM ISA USMAN, MALAM ISA USMAN, INDIVIDUALLY, HADIZA ISYAKU, A MINOR, BY HER FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, ISYAKI SHUAIBU, ISYAKU SHUAIBU, INDIVIDUALLY, ZAHRA`U JAFARU, A MINOR, BY HER FATHER AND ANTURAL GUARDIAN, JAFRU BABA, JAFARU BABA, INDIVIDUALLY, ANAS MOHAMMED, A MINOR, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, MALAM MOHAMMED, MALAM MOHAMMED, INDIVIDUALLY, NAFISATU MUHAMMED, A MINOR, BY HER MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, YAHAWASU MUHAMMED, YAHAWASU MUHAMMED, INDIVIDUALLY, MUHSINU TIJJANI, A MINOR, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, TIJJANI HASSAN, ALHAJI YUSUF ALI, MARYAM IDRIS, A MINOR, BY HER FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, MALAM IDRIS, AJUDU ISMAILA ADAMU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF YAHAYA ISMAICA, MINOR, MALAM MOHAMMED, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF BASHIR MOHAMMED, MINOR, MALAM YUSAB YA`U AMALE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF SUYUDI YUSALS YU`A, MINOR, MALASM HARUNA ADAMU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF MOHAMMED TASI`U HARUNA, MINOR, ZANGON KWAJALAWA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF NURUDDIM DAUDA, MINOR, MALAM DAHAURU YA`Y, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF RABI DAHURU, MINOR AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF ZAINAB MUSA DAHURU, MINOR, ZANGON MARIKITA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF ISMAILA MUSA, MINOR, ARHAJI MUIHAMMAD SOJA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF ESTATE OF HAMAZA ACHAJI MUHAMMAD, MINOR, DECEASED, ACHAJI IBRAHIM DANKWALBA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST OF ABDULLAHI IBRAHIM, MINOR, MALLAM LAWAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF AISHA LAWAN, MINOR, DECEASED, ALHAJI MUHAMMED TSOHON SOJO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF UNNI ALHASI MUHAMMED, MINOR, ISMAILA ZUBAIRUI, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF MUSTAPHA ZUBAIRU, MINOR, DECEASED, ABUBAKER MUSA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL OF SA`ADATU MUSA, MINOR, MOHAMED ABDU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF HARUNA ABDU, MINOR, MALLAM HASSAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF SADIYA HASSAN, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM YAKUBU UMAR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF, MALLAM SAMAILA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF ADAMU SAMALIA, MINOR, MUSA YAHAYA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF UKHASA MUSA, MINOR, AUDU ISMAILIA ADAMU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF YASHAYA SAMAILA, MALAM MUSA DAHIRU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT, MALAM MUSA ZANGO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OS SAMAILA MUSA, MINOR, MALLAM ALHASSAN MAIHULA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF NAJIB MAIHULA, MINOR, MALLAM ABDULLAH GAMA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF DANKUMA GAMA, MINOR, DAUDA NUHU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF HAMISU NUHU, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM ABDULLAHI, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF NAJARATU ADBULLAHI, MINOR, DECEASED, MALAM UMARU MOHAMMED, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF SULE MOHAMMED, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM NASIRU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF YUSIF NASIRU, MINOR, DECEASED, YUSUF MUSA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF NAFISATU MUSA, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM MURITALA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF UMARU MURITALA, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM TANKO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF MADINA TANKOL, MINOR DECEASED, MALLAM SHEU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF MADINA TANKOL, MINOR, DECEASED, MALAM KABIRU MOHAMED, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF KABIRU MOHAMED, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM SULE ABUBAKAR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF FATIMA ABUBAKER, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM IDRIS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF BABA IDRIS, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM MOHAMED BASHIR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF SANI BASHIR, MINOR, DECEASED, IBRAHIM, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. HASSAN IBRAHIM, MINOR, DECEASED, ALHAJI SHUAIBU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF MASJBATU SHUAIBU, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM ABDULLAHI SALE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF SHAMISIYA SALE, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM IBRAHIM AMYARAWA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF YAHAYA IBRAHIM, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM ABDU ABUBAKER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF NASITU ABUBAKER, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM YUSUF, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF HODIZA YUSUF, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM DAUDA YUSUF, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF ABUBAKER SHEU, MINOR, DECEASED, MALIAM MOHAMMED SHEU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF MUSTAPHA YAKUBU, MINOR, DECEASED, ALHAJI UBAH, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF MARYAM UBAH, MINOR, DECEASED, MALLAM MOHAMADU JABBO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF AUWALU MOHAMADU, MALLAM ABDULLAH ADAMU, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF EST. OF ABDULLAH ADAMU, MINOR, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
PFIZER, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Plaintiffs-Appellants appeal from judgments of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Pauley, J.) dismissing complaints for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and on the ground of forum non conveniens.

REVERSED and REMANDED.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barrington D. Parker, Circuit Judge

Argued: July 12, 2007

Before: POOLER, B.D. PARKER, and WESLEY, Circuit Judges.

Judge Wesley dissents in a separate opinion.

This consolidated appeal is from the judgments of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Pauley, J.) dismissing two complaints for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350 ("ATS"), and in the alternative, on the ground of forum non conveniens. Plaintiffs-Appellants Rabi Abdullahi and other Nigerian children and their guardians sued Defendant-Appellee Pfizer, Inc. under the ATS ("the Abdullahi action"). They alleged that Pfizer violated a customary international law norm prohibiting involuntary medical experimentation on humans when it tested an experimental antibiotic on children in Nigeria, including themselves, without their consent or knowledge. Plaintiffs- Appellants Ajudu Ismaila Adamu and others, also children and their guardians who were part of Pfizer's Nigerian drug experiment, brought a similar action against Pfizer, alleging violations of the ATS, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act ("CUTPA"), and the Connecticut Products Liability Act ("CPLA") ("the Adamu action"). Pfizer moved to dismiss both actions for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and on the basis of forum non coveniens. The district court granted the motions and both sets of plaintiffs have appealed.

As explained below, we conclude: (1) that the district court incorrectly determined that the prohibition in customary international law against nonconsensual human medical experimentation cannot be enforced through the ATS; (2) that changed circumstances in Nigeria since the filing of this appeal require re-examination of the appropriate forum, albeit on the basis of a legal analysis different from that employed by the district court; and (3) that the district court incorrectly applied Connecticut's choice of law rules in the Adamu action. Consequently, we reverse and remand the cases to the district court for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

A. Pfizer's Trovan Test in Nigeria

On review of a district court's grant of a motion to dismiss, we assume as true the facts alleged in the complaints, construing them in the light most favorable to the appellants. See Vietnam Ass'n for Victims of Agent Orange v. Dow Chem. Co., 517 F.3d 104, 115 (2d Cir. 2008). The central events at issue in these cases took place in 1996, during an epidemic of bacterial meningitis in northern Nigeria.*fn1 The appellants allege that at that time, Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical corporation, sought to gain the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") for the use on children of its new antibiotic, Trovafloxacin Mesylate, marketed as "Trovan." They contend that in April 1996, Pfizer, dispatched three of its American physicians to work with four Nigerian doctors to experiment with Trovan on children who were patients in Nigeria's Infectious Disease Hospital ("IDH") in Kano, Nigeria. Working in concert with Nigerian government officials, the team allegedly recruited two hundred sick children who sought treatment at the IDH and gave half of the children Trovan and the other half Ceftriaxone, an FDA-approved antibiotic the safety and efficacy of which was well-established. Appellants contend that Pfizer knew that Trovan had never previously been tested on children in the form being used and that animal tests showed that Trovan had life-threatening side effects, including joint disease, abnormal cartilage growth, liver damage, and a degenerative bone condition. Pfizer purportedly gave the children who were in the Ceftriaxone control group a deliberately low dose in order to misrepresent the effectiveness of Trovan in relation to Ceftriaxone. After approximately two weeks, Pfizer allegedly concluded the experiment and left without administering follow-up care. According to the appellants, the tests caused the deaths of eleven children, five of whom had taken Trovan and six of whom had taken the lowered dose of Ceftriaxone, and left many others blind, deaf, paralyzed, or brain-damaged.

Appellants claim that Pfizer, working in partnership with the Nigerian government, failed to secure the informed consent of either the children or their guardians and specifically failed to disclose or explain the experimental nature of the study or the serious risks involved. Although the treatment protocol required the researchers to offer or read the subjects documents requesting and facilitating their informed consent, this was allegedly not done in either English or the subjects' native language of Hausa. The appellants also contend that Pfizer deviated from its treatment protocol by not alerting the children or their guardians to the side effects of Trovan or other risks of the experiment, not providing them with the option of choosing alternative treatment, and not informing them that the non-governmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) was providing a conventional and effective treatment for bacterial meningitis, free of charge, at the same site.*fn2

The appellants allege that, in an effort to rapidly secure FDA approval, Pfizer hastily assembled its test protocol at its research headquarters in Groton, Connecticut, and requested and received permission to proceed from the Nigerian government in March 1996. At the time, Pfizer also claimed to have secured approval from an IDH ethics committee. Appellants allege, however, that the March 1996 approval letter was backdated by Nigerian officials working at the government hospital well after the experiments had taken place and that at the time the letter was purportedly written, the IDH had no ethics committee.*fn3 Appellants also contend that the experiments were condemned by doctors, including one on Pfizer's staff at the time of the Kano trial.

In 1998, the FDA approved Trovan for use on adult patients only. After reports of liver failure in patients who took Trovan, its use in America was eventually restricted to adult emergency care. In 1999, the European Union banned its use.

B. The Proceedings Below

In August 2001, the Abdullahi plaintiffs sued Pfizer under the ATS, alleging that the experiments violated international law. In September 2002, the district court granted Pfizer's motion to dismiss the Abdullahi claims on the ground of forum non conveniens, conditioned on Pfizer's consent to litigation in Nigeria. Abdullahi v. Pfizer, Inc., No. 01 Civ. 8118 (WHP), 2002 WL 31082956, at *12 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 17, 2002) ("Abdullahi I"). It found that Nigeria was an adequate alternative forum despite plaintiffs' contentions about corruption in the Nigerian court system. Id. at *8-10. The district court denied Pfizer's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., concluding that the plaintiffs adequately alleged that Pfizer's collusion with the Nigerian government made it a state actor. Id. at *5-6.

Meanwhile, another group of children and guardians involved in the Trovan experiment sued in the Federal High Court in Kano, alleging claims under Nigerian law. That case, Zango v. Pfizer International, Inc., [2001] Suit No. FHC/K/CS/204/2001 (Nigeria), was dismissed in 2003 after plaintiffs voluntarily discontinued the suit following the removal from the bench of the first judge assigned to the action and the second judge's decision to decline jurisdiction for personal reasons. Abdullahi v. Pfizer, Inc., No. 01 Civ. 8118 (WHP), 2005 WL 1870811, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 9, 2005) ("Abdullahi III"). On appeal to this Court from the district court's dismissal in Abdullahi I, the Abdullahi appellants argued that the dismissal of the Zango litigation was a result of rampant corruption, which indicated that the Nigerian judicial system could not provide an adequate alternative forum for their action. Given an inconclusive record regarding the events leading to the dismissal of the Zango lawsuit, we vacated the judgment and remanded for further fact-finding on forum non conveniens. See Abdullahi v. Pfizer, Inc., 77 F. App'x 48, 53 (2d Cir. 2003) (summary order) ("Abdullahi II").

In November 2002, following the dismissal of the Zango lawsuit, a number of the Zango plaintiffs filed the Adamu action. They alleged that in planning the Trovan experiment in Connecticut and in conducting the tests in Nigeria without informed consent, Pfizer violated the CUTPA, the CPLA, and the ATS. Eventually, the Adamu action was transferred to the Southern District of New York and consolidated with the Abdullahi action. Pfizer then moved to dismiss both cases for failure to state a claim under the ATS and on the basis of forum non conveniens. It also moved to dismiss in Adamu on the ground that Connecticut choice of law principles require the application of Nigerian law, which bars suit under CUTPA and the CPLA.

The district court granted the motions. See Abdullahi III, 2005 WL 1870811; Adamu v. Pfizer, Inc., 399 F. Supp. 2d 495 (S.D.N.Y. 2005). In Abdullahi III, Judge Pauley held that while "[p]laintiffs correctly state that non-consensual medical experimentation violates the law of nations and, therefore, the laws of the United States," they failed to identify a source of international law that "provide[s] a proper predicate for jurisdiction under the ATS." 2005 WL 1870811, at *9, 14. Noting that "a decision to create a private right of action is one better left to legislative judgment in the great majority of cases," he concluded that "[a] cause of action for Pfizer's failure to get any consent, informed or otherwise, before performing medical experiments on the subject children would expand customary international law far beyond that contemplated by the ATS." Id. at *13-14 (internal quotation marks omitted).

With regard to the forum non conveniens analysis, the district court declined to accept plaintiffs' submissions concerning Pfizer's alleged bribery of Nigerian officials on the ground that they were not based on personal knowledge. Id. at *16-17. Finding that the plaintiffs had failed to submit specific evidence that the Nigerian judiciary would be biased against its own citizens in an action against Pfizer, the district court alternatively held that Nigeria was an adequate alternate forum. Id. at *16, 18.

Several months later, the district court also granted Pfizer's motion to dismiss the Adamu case. Adamu, 399 F. Supp. 2d 495. It relied on its Abdullahi III decision to hold that the plaintiffs could not establish jurisdiction under the ATS. Id. at 501. The district court also incorporated the forum non conveniens analysis from Abdullahi III to find that Nigeria is an adequate forum. Id. at 504. Applying the public and private interest factors set forth in Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508-09 (1947), superseded by statute on other grounds as recognized in Cowan v. Ford Motor Co., 713 F.2d 100, 103 (5th Cir. 1983), the court found that while public interest factors did not support either forum, private interest factors weighed in favor of dismissal. Adamu, 339 F. Supp. 2d. at 505-06. The district court also dismissed the Adamu plaintiffs' Connecticut law claims, concluding that, under Connecticut choice of law principles, the action was governed and barred by Nigerian law. Id. at 503.

The Abdullahi and Adamu plaintiffs appealed. Since then, a tectonic change has altered the relevant political landscape. In May 2007, the state of Kano brought criminal charges and civil claims against Pfizer, seeking over $2 billion in damages and restitution.*fn4 Around the same time, the federal government of Nigeria sued Pfizer and several of its employees, seeking $7 billion in damages.*fn5 None of these cases seek compensation for the subjects of the tests, who are the appellants before this Court. Pfizer then notified this Court that in light of these recent developments, which it believed required further consideration by the district court, it would not seek affirmance on the basis of forum non conveniens.

DISCUSSION

The district court dismissed both actions based on its determination that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because plaintiffs failed to state claims under the ATS. We review dismissal on this ground de novo. Rweyemamu v. Cote, 520 F.3d 198, 201 (2d Cir. 2008). "To survive dismissal, the plaintiff[s] must provide the grounds upon which [their] claim rests through factual allegations sufficient 'to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007)).*fn6

I. The Alien Tort Statute

The Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, provides that "[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the Nigeria Sues Drugs Giant Pfizer, BBC News, June 5, 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6719141.stm. law of nations or a treaty of the United States." Included in the Judiciary Act of 1789, the statute provided jurisdiction in just two cases during the first 191 years after its enactment. See Taveras v. Taveraz, 477 F.3d 767, 771 (6th Cir. 2007). In the last thirty years, however, the ATS has functioned slightly more robustly, conferring jurisdiction over a limited category of claims.

We first extensively examined the ATS in Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, 630 F.2d 876 (2d Cir. 1980), where we held that conduct violating the law of nations is actionable under the ATS "only where the nations of the world have demonstrated that the wrong is of mutual, and not merely several, concern, by means of express international accords." Id. at 888. Following Filartiga, we concluded that ATS claims may sometimes be brought against private actors, and not only state officials, see Kadic v. Karadzic, 70 F.3d 232, 239 (2d Cir. 1995),when the tortious activities violate norms of "universal concern" that are recognized to extend to the conduct of private parties-for example, slavery, genocide, and war crimes, id. at 240. This case involves allegations of both state and individual action. In Flores v. Southern Peru Copper Corp., 414 F.3d 233 (2d Cir. 2003), we clarified that "the law of nations" in the ATS context "refers to the body of law known as customary international law," which "is discerned from myriad decisions made in numerous and varied international and domestic arenas" and "does not stem from any single, definitive, readily-identifiable source." Id. at 247-48. These principles are rejected in their entirety by our dissenting colleague. In Flores, we concluded that ATS jurisdiction is limited to alleged violations of "those clear and unambiguous rules by which States universally abide, or to which they accede, out of a sense of legal obligation and mutual concern." Id. at 252.

Applying this standard, we held that the appellants' claim that pollution from mining operations caused lung disease failed to state a violation of customary international law. We reasoned that the "right to life" and the "right to health" were insufficiently definite to constitute binding customary legal norms and that there was insufficient evidence to establish the existence of a narrower norm prohibiting intranational pollution. Id. at 254-55.

In 2004, the Supreme Court comprehensively addressed the ATS for the first time in Sosa v. Alvaraez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692. Justice Souter, writing for the majority, clarified that the ATS was enacted to create jurisdiction over "a relatively modest set of actions alleging violations of the law of nations" and with "the understanding that the common law would provide a cause of action." Id. at 720, 723. The Supreme Court confirmed that federal courts retain a limited power to "adapt[] the law of nations to private rights" by recognizing "a narrow class of international norms" to be judicially enforceable through our residual common law discretion to create causes of action. Id. at 728-29. It cautioned, however, that courts must exercise this power with restraint and "the understanding that the door [to actionable violations] is still ajar subject to vigilant doorkeeping," permitting only those claims that "rest on a norm of international character accepted by the civilized world and defined with a specificity comparable to the features of the 18th-century paradigms [the Supreme Court has] recognized." Id. at 725, 729. These 18th-century paradigms consist of offenses against ambassadors, violations of the right to safe passage, and individual actions arising out of piracy. Id. at 724. The common theme among these offenses is that they contravened the law of nations, admitted of a judicial remedy, and simultaneously threatened serious consequences in international affairs. Id. at 715. Lower courts are required to gauge claims brought under the ATS against the current state of international law, but are permitted to recognize under federal common law only those private claims for violations of customary international law norms that reflect the same degree of "definite content and acceptance among civilized nations" as those reflected in the 18th-century paradigms. Id. at 732-33. The Supreme Court in Sosa also counseled that "the determination whether a norm is sufficiently definite to support a cause of action should (and, indeed, inevitably must) involve an element of judgment about the practical consequences of making that cause available to litigants" in federal courts. Id.

In this way Sosa set a "high bar to new private causes of action" alleging violations of customary international law. Id. at 727. A federal court can recognize one only if a plaintiff identifies the violation of a norm of customary international law that, as defined by the sources of such law that United States courts "have long, albeit cautiously, recognized," id. at 733-34 (referencing The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 700 (1900)), is sufficiently specific, universal, and obligatory to meet the standards established by Sosa. See Sosa, 542 U.S. at 732 (citing with approval Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726 F.2d 774, 781 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (Edwards, J., concurring), and In re Estate of Marcos, Human Rights Litig., 25 F.3d 1467, 1475 (9th Cir. 1994)). Applying these principles, the Supreme Court held that the plaintiff, a Mexican national who sued a fellow Mexican national under the ATS for allegedly aiding in his illegal abduction by agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, had failed to allege the violation of a customary international law norm with the required precision. Sosa, 542 U.S. at 738. The Supreme Court found that the practical consequences of recognizing a general and broad customary international law prohibition of arbitrary detention in a case involving "a single illegal detention of less than a day, followed by the transfer of custody to lawful authorities and a prompt arraignment" would be "breathtaking" and inappropriate. Id. at 736, 738.

Since Sosa, this Court has reviewed three judgments dismissing claims under the ATS. In Khulumani v. Barclay National Bank, Ltd., 504 F.3d 254 (2d Cir. 2007) (per curiam), we held that the ATS conferred jurisdiction over multinational corporations that purportedly collaborated with the government of South Africa in maintaining apartheid because they aided and abetted violations of customary international law. Id. at 260. In Vietnam Ass'n for Victims of Agent Orange v. Dow Chemical Co., 517 F.3d 104 (2d Cir. 2008), we concluded that the ATS did not support a claim that the defendants violated international law by manufacturing and supplying Agent Orange and other herbicides used by the United States military during the Vietnam War. Id. at 123. We reasoned that the sources of law on which the appellants relied did not define a norm prohibiting the wartime use of Agent Orange that was both universal and sufficiently specific to satisfy the requirements of Sosa. Id. at 119-23. Similarly, in Mora v. People of the State of New York, 524 F.3d 183 (2d Cir. 2008), we held that the norm at issue-one that prohibits the detention of a foreign national without informing him of the requirement of consular notification and access under Article 36(1)(b)(3) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations-was insufficiently universal to support a claim under the ATS. Id. at 208-09.

Turning now to this appeal, and remaining mindful of our obligation to proceed cautiously and self-consciously in this area, we determine whether the norm alleged (1) is defined with a specificity comparable to the 18th-century paradigms discussed in Sosa, (2) is based upon a norm of international character accepted by the civilized world, and (3) is one that States universally abide by, or accede to, out of a sense of legal obligation and mutual concern.

A. The Prohibition of Nonconsensual Medical Experimentation on Humans

Appellants' ATS claims are premised on the existence of a norm of customary international law prohibiting medical experimentation on non-consenting human subjects. To determine whether this prohibition constitutes a universally accepted norm of customary international law, we examine the current state of international law by consulting the sources identified by Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice ("ICJ Statute"), to which the United States and all members of the United Nations are parties. Flores, 414 F.3d at 250; see, e.g., United States v. Yousef, 327 F.3d 56, 100-01 (2d Cir. 2003). Article 38 identifies the authorities that provide "competent proof of the content of customary international law." Flores, 414 F.3d at 251. These sources consist of:

(a) international conventions, whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states;

(b) international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law;

(c) the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations;

(d) . . . judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations, as subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law.

Statute of the International Court of Justice, art. 38(1), June 26, 1945, 59 Stat. 1055, 1060, T.S. No. 993 [hereinafter ICJ Statute].

The appellants ground their claims in four sources of international law that categorically forbid medical experimentation on non-consenting human subjects: (1) the Nuremberg Code, which states as its first principle that "[t]he voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential"; (2) the World Medical Association's Declaration of Helsinki, which sets forth ethical principles to guide physicians world-wide and provides that human subjects should be volunteers and grant their informed consent to participate in research; (3) the guidelines authored by the Council for International Organizations of Medical Services ("CIOMS"), which require "the voluntary informed consent of [a] prospective subject"; and (4) Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ("ICCPR"), which provides that "no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation."*fn7

The district court found that "non-consensual medical experimentation violates the law of nations and, therefore, the laws of the United States" and cited the Nuremberg Code for support. Abdullahi III, 2005 WL 1870811, at *9. It then noted that "[w]hile federal courts have the authority to imply the existence of a private right of action for violations of jus cogens norms of international law, federal courts must consider whether there exist special factors counseling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress." Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The district court then separately analyzed the four sources of international law that prohibit nonconsensual medical experimentation on humans and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Id. at *11-13. It found that with the exception of the Nuremberg Code, these sources contain only aspirational or vague language lacking the specificity required for jurisdiction. Id. at *12-13. It also determined that because the United States did not ratify or adopt any of these authorities except the ICCPR, and because even the ICCPR is not self-executing, none of them create binding international legal obligations that are enforceable in federal court. Id. at *11-13. Finally, the district court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to provide a proper predicate for ATS jurisdiction because none of the sources independently authorizes a private cause of action and the inference of such a cause of action is a matter best left to Congress. Id. at *13-14.*fn8

The district court's approach misconstrued both the nature of customary international law and the scope of the inquiry required by Sosa. It mistakenly assumed that the question of whether a particular customary international law norm is sufficiently specific, universal, and obligatory to permit the recognition of a cause of action under the ATS is resolved essentially by looking at two things: whether each source of law referencing the norm is binding and whether each source expressly authorizes a cause of action to enforce the norm. But Sosa, as we have seen, requires a more fulsome and nuanced inquiry. Courts are obligated to examine how the specificity of the norm compares with 18th-century paradigms, whether the norm is accepted in the world community, and whether States universally abide by the norm out of a sense of mutual concern. By eschewing this inquiry, the district court did not engage the fact that norms of customary international law are "discerned from myriad decisions made in numerous and varied international and domestic arenas" and "[do] not stem from any single, definitive, readily-identifiable source." Flores, 414 F.3d at 247-48.

The district court also inappropriately narrowed its inquiry in two respects. First, it focused its consideration on whether the norm identified by the plaintiffs is set forth in conventions to which the United States is a party, and if so, whether these treaties are self-executing or executed by federal legislation. While adoption of a self-executing treaty or the execution of treaty that is not self-executing may provide the best evidence of a particular country's custom or practice of recognizing a norm, see Flores, 414 F.3d at 257, the existence of a norm of customary international law is one determined, in part, by reference to the custom or practices of many States, and the broad acceptance of that norm by the international community. Agreements that are not self-executing or that have not been executed by federal legislation, including the ICCPR, are appropriately considered evidence of the current state of customary international law. See Khulumani, 504 F.3d at 284 (Katzmann, J., concurring) (noting that "[w]hether a treaty that embodies [a norm of customary international law] is self-executing is relevant to, but is not determinative of, [the] question" of whether the norm permits ATS jurisdiction). A formal treaty, moreover, is not the lone primary source of customary international law. The ICJ Statute permits, and Sosa encourages, among other things, that courts consider "international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law." ICJ Statute, supra, at art. 38(1); Sosa, 542 U.S. at 734 ("[W]here there is no treaty, and no controlling executive or legislative act or judicial decision, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations.") (quoting The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. at 700).

Second, the district court's consideration of whether each source of law creates binding legal norms failed to credit the fact that even declarations of international norms that are not in and of themselves binding may, with time and in conjunction with state practice, provide evidence that a norm has developed the specificity, universality, and obligatory nature required for ATS jurisdiction. See Filartiga, 630 F.2d at 883 ("[A non-binding] Declaration creates an expectation of adherence, and insofar as the expectation is gradually justified by State practice, a declaration may by custom become recognized as laying down rules binding upon the States.") (internal quotation marks omitted). The district court should have considered a greater range of evidence and weighed differently the probative value of the sources on which the appellants relied.

In sum, it was inappropriate for the district court to forego a more extensive examination of whether treaties, international agreements, or State practice have ripened the prohibition of nonconsensual medical experimentation on human subjects into a customary international law norm that is sufficiently (i) universal and obligatory, (ii) specific and definable, and (iii) of mutual concern, to permit courts to infer a cause of action under the ATS. See Sosa, 542 U.S. at 732-35. We now proceed with such an examination.

i. Universality

The appellants must allege the violation of a norm of customary international law to which States universally subscribe. See Sosa, 542 U.S. at 732; Vietnam Ass'n for Victims of Agent Orange, 517 F.3d at 117. The prohibition on nonconsensual medical experimentation on human beings meets this standard because, among other reasons, it is specific, focused and accepted by nations around the world without significant exception.

The evolution of the prohibition into a norm of customary international law began with the war crimes trials at Nuremberg. The United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and France "acting in the interest of all the United Nations," established the International Military Tribunal ("IMT") through entry into the London Agreement of August 8, 1945. M. Cheriff Bassiouni et al., An Appraisal of Human Experimentation in International Law and Practice: The Need for International Regulation of Human Experimentation, 72 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 1597, 1640 & n.220 (1981) (internal quotation marks omitted). Annexed to the London Agreement was the London Charter, which served as the IMT's Constitution. See Agreement for the Prosecution and Punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European Axis Powers, with annexed Charter of the International Military Tribunal art. 2, Aug. 8, 1945, 59 Stat. 1544, 82 U.N.T.S. 279. According to the Charter, the IMT had the "power to try and punish persons who, acting in the interests of the European Axis countries, whether as individuals or as members of organisations, committed," among other offenses, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Id. at art. 6.

The IMT tried 22 "major" Nazi war criminals leaving "lower-level" war criminals, including "[l]eading physicians . . . and leading German industrialists," to be tried in subsequent trials by U.S. military tribunals acting "under the aegis of the IMT." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, War Crimes Trials, Holocaust Encylopedia (2008), http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005140. The law that authorized the creation of the U.S. military tribunals, Control Council Law No. 10, was enacted in 1945 by the Allied Control Council, see id., an authority through which the London Agreement signatories exerted joint-control over Germany, see Encyclopedia Britannica, Germany, Encyclopedia Britannica Online (2009), http://search.eb.com/eb/article-58214. Control Council Law No. 10 stated that its purpose was to "give effect to the terms of . . . the London Agreement . . . and the [London] Charter," and "to establish a uniform legal basis in Germany for the prosecution of war criminals." Allied Control Council No. 10, preamble, (Dec. 20, 1945), http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/imt10.asp. Law No. 10 expressly incorporated the London Agreement, identifying it as an "integral part[] of this Law." Id. at art. I. Law No. 10 also authorized military tribunals of the occupying powers to prosecute individuals for the same crimes over which the IMT had jurisdiction, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, see id. at arts. II-III, and made military tribunal prosecutions subject to the IMT's right of first refusal, see id. at art. III. Consequently, the U.S. military tribunals effectively operated as extensions of the IMT, see Telford Taylor, Final Report to the Secretary of the Army on the Nuernberg War Crimes Trials Under Control Council Law No. 10 7, 107 (1949) [hereinafter Report on Nuernberg War Crimes Trials], available at http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/NT_final-report.pdf (explaining that "the trials under Law No. 10 were to be a means of carrying out such 'declarations of criminality' . . . as the International Military Tribunal might make" and that "[t]he first [IMT] trial and the 12 following [military tribunal] trials . . . form a single sequence based on common principles"), and Control Council Law No. 10 served to implement the commitments undertaken in the London Agreement, see id. at 7 (noting that "the two documents supplemented each other" and "[m]ajor criminals not tried under the one could be tried under the other").

In August 1947, Military Tribunal 1, staffed by American judges and prosecutors and conducted under American procedural rules, see George J. Annas, The Nuremberg Code in U.S. Courts: Ethics versus Expediency in The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code 201, 201 (George J. Annas & Michael A. Grodin eds., 1992), promulgated the Nuremberg Code as part of the tribunal's final judgment against fifteen doctors who were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for conducting medical experiments without the subjects' consent, Brandt, 2 Nuremberg Trials, at 181-82. Among the nonconsensual experiments that the tribunal cited as a basis for their convictions were the testing of drugs for immunization against malaria, epidemic jaundice, typhus, smallpox and cholera. Id. at 175-178. Seven of the convicted doctors were sentenced to death and the remaining eight were sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment. Id. at 298-300. The tribunal emphasized that

[i]n every single instance appearing in the record, subjects were used who did not consent to the experiments; indeed, as to some of the experiments, it is not even contended by the defendants that the subjects occupied the status of volunteers.

Id. at 183. The judgment concluded that "[m]anifestly human experiments under such conditions are contrary to the principles of the law of nations as they result from usages established among civilized peoples, from the laws of humanity, and from the dictates of public conscience." Id. (emphasis added and internal quotation marks omitted). The Code created as part of the tribunal's judgment therefore emphasized as its first principle that "[t]he voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential." Id. at 181.

The American tribunal's conclusion that action that contravened the Code's first principle constituted a crime against humanity is a lucid indication of the international legal significance of the prohibition on nonconsensual medical experimentation. As Justices of the Supreme Court have recognized, "[t]he medical trials at Nuremberg in 1947 deeply impressed upon the world that experimentation with unknowing human subjects is morally and legally unacceptable." United States v. Stanley, 483 U.S. 669, 687 (1987) (Brennan, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (emphasis added); see also id. at 709-10(O'Connor, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part).

Moreover, both the legal principles articulated in the trials' authorizing documents and their application in judgments at Nuremberg occupy a position of special importance in the development of bedrock norms of international law. United States courts examining the Nuremberg judgments have recognized that "[t]he universal and fundamental rights of human beings identified by Nuremberg-rights against genocide, enslavement, and other inhumane acts . . .-are the direct ancestors of the universal and fundamental norms recognized as jus cogens," from which no derogation is permitted, irrespective of the consent or practice of a given State. Siderman de Blake v. Republic of Arg., 965 F.2d 699, 715 (9th Cir. 1992) (cited in Sampson v. F.R.G., 250 F.3d 1145, 1150 (7th Cir. 2001)). As Telford Taylor, who served as an assistant to Justice Robert Jackson during his time as Chief Prosecutor for the IMT and then became Chief Counsel for War Crimes on the Nuremberg trials held under the authority of Control Council Law No. 10, explained, "Nuernberg was based on enduring [legal] principles and not on temporary political expedients, and this fundamental point is apparent from the reaffirmation of the Nuernberg principles in Control Council Law No. 10, and their application and refinement in the 12 judgments rendered under that law during the 3-year period, 1947 to 1949." Taylor, Report on Nuernberg War Crimes Trials, at 107 (emphasis added).

Consistent with this view, the Code's first principle has endured: "[S]ignificant world opinion has not come to the defense of the nature or manner in which the experiments were conducted in the Nazi concentration camps." Bassiouni et al., supra, at 1641. Rather, since Nuremberg, states throughout the world have shown through international accords and domestic law-making that they consider the prohibition on nonconsensual medical experimentation identified at Nuremberg as a norm of customary international law.*fn9

In 1955, the draft International Covenants on Human Rights was revised to add a second sentence to its prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The addition provided that "[i]n particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation involving risk, where such is not required by his state of physical or mental health." Annotations on the text of the draft International Covenants on Human Rights, at 31, U.N. GAOR, 10th Sess., Annexes, agenda item 28 (II), U.N. Doc. A/2929 (July 1, 1955). The clause was later revised to offer the simpler and sweeping prohibition that "no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation." ICCPR, supra,at art. 7. This prohibition became part of Article 7 of the ICCPR, which entered into force in 1976, and is legally binding on the more than 160 States-Parties that have ratified the convention without reservation to the provision.*fn10 By its terms this prohibition is not limited to state actors; rather, it guarantees individuals the right to be free from nonconsensual medical experimentation by any entity--state actors, private actors, or state and private actors behaving in concert.

Its status as a norm that states conceive as legally binding--and therefore part of customary international law--is confirmed by Article 2 of the accord, which requires that "[e]ach State Party . . . undertake[] to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant." ICCPR art. 2(1). The international community's recognition in the ICCPR of its obligation to protect humans, regardless of the source of the action, is powerful evidence of the prohibition's place in customary international law.

It is clear that, as the court mentioned in Sosa, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR themselves could not establish the relevant, applicable rule of international law in that case. Sosa, 542 U.S. at 754. Nonetheless, the ICCPR, when viewed as a reaffirmation of the norm as articulated in the Nuremberg Code, is potent authority for the universal acceptance of the prohibition on nonconsensual medical experimentation. As we discuss below, see infra pp. 28-30, the fact that the prohibition on medical experimentation on humans without consent has been consciously embedded by Congress in our law and reaffirmed on numerous occasions by the FDA ...


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