Two automakers and a technology company cannot be held liable in the U.S. for abuses committed by South Africa’s government, a federal appeals court said Wednesday in a blow to class-action lawsuits that had tried to hold American, Canadian and European companies liable for the claims of millions of people who say they suffered under apartheid.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said claims that subsidiaries of the companies are to blame for selling cars and computers to the South African government must be rejected. The Manhattan court left it to a lower court to formally toss the claims, the remnants of lawsuits that once named 78 diverse foreign and domestic corporations representing a broad spectrum of the international economy.
Lawsuits still sought to hold Daimler AG, Ford Motor Co. and IBM Corp. responsible for race-based injustices including rape, torture and murder under apartheid, which ended two decades ago.
They said Daimler and Ford manufactured military vehicles for the South African security forces and assisted security forces in identifying and torturing anti-apartheid leaders. The plaintiffs also accused IBM of providing computer equipment so the South African government could restrict black South Africans’ movements, track dissidents and target individuals for repressive acts.
Lawyers on both sides did not immediately return messages for comment.