Impact Of Second Circuit’s Abdullahi Decision

Co-authored by Keith Gibson

**On January 30, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an opinion that should be noted by any company doing business internationally.  In Abdullahi v. Pfizer, Inc., 562 F.3d 163 (2nd Cir. 2009), the Second Circuit reversed the District Court’s dismissal of two cases brought against the pharmaceutical company Pfizer under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), 28 U.S.C. § 1350.  While the decision is particularly significant to pharmaceutical companies – given its holding that informed consent for human medical experimentation is a norm of customary international law – it is also significant for any company doing business overseas because it provides guidance on how courts, especially the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, may assess whether other international norms exist that could give rise to claims under the ATS.  For more info on the Second Circuit’s decision, see this Weil Briefing.

Before the Abdullahi case reached the Second Circuit, the Washington Legal Foundation published two articles that we wrote discussing the underlying health crisis in Kano, Nigeria, Pfizer’s response, and the challenges faced by the District Court in this ATS case.  See “Alien Tort Statute Shakedown: Cout Must Arrest New Attempt to Expand Mischievous U.S. Law” and “Federal Court Applies Brakes to Alien Tort Statute Litigation.”