Pfizer has settled an Alien Tort Statute (ATS) suit brought by Nigerian plaintiffs who alleged that the company violated international law by testing an experimental drug on children, without their parents’ consent or knowledge, and without informing families that another (non-experimental) drug was available. The case had already led to important legal developments, including a Second Circuit ruling in 2009 which recognized the existence of a norm of customary international law prohibiting medical experimentation on non-consenting human subjects.
After nearly 15 years of litigation, the timing of the settlement is striking—it comes on the heels of the Second Circuit’s recent decision in Kiobel ruling that corporations cannot be liable under the ATS. Although the terms of the settlement are confidential, we do know that it allows a maximum of $175,000 per child to those who can demonstrate death or permanent disability due to the 1996 trials of the drug Trovan, intended to treat meningitis. These payments would come from a $35 million trust fund established as a part of a prior settlement with the Kano state government in Nigeria, where the drug testing occurred. Additional information is available here.