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William v. The AES Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

June 26, 2014

NYAH TCHAMI WILLIAM, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE AES CORPORATION AND AES SONEL, Defendants

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For Nyah Tchami William, Kamga Justin, Mendefo Youmeni Jean Jules, Madame Mendefo Fridoline, Fowouo Richard, John 1 Doe, People of Jakiri Sub-Division, Jane 1 Doe, People of Jakiri Sub-Division, John 2 Doe, Inhabitants of Yaounde, Jane 2 Doe, Inhabitants of Yaounde, John 3 Doe, Inhabitanta of Ngoa-Ekelle, Jane 3 Doe, Inhabitanta of Ngoa-Ekelle, John 4 Doe, Inhabitanta of Bamenda, Jane 4 Doe, Inhabitanta of Bamenda, Business Group 1, Association of Fisherman, Business Group 2, Association of Merchants in Electrical Goods, Business Group 3, Association of Construction workers, Business Group 4, Association of Milk Factories, Business Group 5, Association of Food Market, Nana Bamen Ngnangna Eugenie, Motsebo, Plaintiffs: Emmanuel Nsahlai, LEAD ATTORNEY, Nsahlai Law Firm, Los Angeles, CA; John Andrew Baxter, I.S. Law Firm PLLC, Alexandria, VA.

For AES Corporation, The, a Delaware Corporation, Defendant: Christopher T Handman, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Craig Alan Hoover, Mary Helen Wimberly, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP, Washington, DC; Jon Myer Talotta, LEAD ATTORNEY, Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP (VA), McLean, VA; Barry J Thompson, Michael M Maddigan, Rachel Anne Patta, Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP, Los Angeles, CA.

For AES Corporation, The, which will do business in California as The Delaware AES Corporation, a California corporation, Defendant: Christopher T Handman, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Craig Alan Hoover, Mary Helen Wimberly, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP, Washington, DC; Jon Myer Talotta, LEAD ATTORNEY, Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP (VA), McLean, VA.

For AES Sonel, business entity in Cameroom, Defendant: Craig Alan Hoover, LEAD ATTORNEY, Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP, Washington, DC; Jon Myer Talotta, LEAD ATTORNEY, Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP (VA), McLean, VA.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

James C. Cacheris, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

At issue in this case is whether a parent corporation headquartered in Virginia and its Cameroonian subsidiary can be liable under the Alien Tort Statute and Virginia common law for injuries stemming from alleged power failures in Cameroon. Currently before the Court is Defendants AES Corporation (" AES" ) and AES Sonel's (" Sonel" ) (collectively " Defendants" ) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (" SAC" ). For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

I. Background

This case arises out of power failures in Cameroon allegedly caused by a power

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company, Defendant Sonel. Plaintiffs, all citizens and residents of Cameroon, seek relief pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute (" ATS" ), 28 U.S.C. § 1350 and Virginia common law for injuries allegedly caused by these power failures.

A. Factual Background

AES is a Delaware corporation, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. (SAC ¶ 2.) AES is a holding company which owns a portfolio of electricity generation and distribution businesses. AES owns 56% of Sonel, a subsidiary corporation located in Cameroon. The Cameroonian government owns the remaining 44% of Sonel, and Sonel is the sole distributor of electricity in Cameroon. (SAC ¶ 8.) AES recently sold its shares in Sonel to Actis Capital, LLP (" Actis" ), a private equity firm headquartered in the United Kingdom. (SAC ¶ 6.) Plaintiffs have not filed any proof of service of process on Actis. Thus, the movants here are only AES and Sonel. (Def. Mem. at 3.)

According to the SAC, in 2001 AES entered into a contract with the government of Cameroon " for the privatization of electricity in Cameroon." (SAC ¶ 26.) Plaintiffs allege that AES and the government of Cameroon " intended to benefit consumers of electrical power in Cameroon." (SAC ¶ 26.) The contract allegedly provides for the provision, supply and distribution of electrical power in Cameroon. (SAC ¶ 26.) Plaintiffs do not have a copy of this alleged contract. Plaintiffs allege that Sonel, formerly a government owned corporation was privatized in 2001 and that " investment by AES corporation from USA was touted as the needed incentive to improve power generation." (SAC ¶ 28.)

Plaintiffs allege that the electrical supply provided by Sonel is characterized by short circuits, voltage fluctuation and electrical supply failure. (SAC ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs allege that this substandard electrical supply has led to " death, misery, regular power outages, and substantial economic losses" between 2001 and the present. (SAC ¶ 2.) From August 2012 to March 2013, for example, Cameroon recorded 8,337 power cuts. (SAC ¶ 11.) When the electricity comes back on after an outage, high voltage on the line allegedly causes fires which have damaged homes and businesses. (SAC ¶ ¶ 11, 38-41.) Plaintiffs allege that these fires have resulted in the deaths of several children. (SAC ¶ ¶ 36-37.)

Plaintiffs further allege that Defendants do not timely provide consumers with their bills, (SAC ¶ 42), and that specific local industries, including fishermen, (SAC ¶ 44), merchants in electrical goods, (SAC ¶ 45), construction workers, (SAC ¶ 46), milk factories, (SAC ¶ 47), and food markets (SAC ¶ ...


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