[Out now] Video on Mexico v Smith & Wesson discussion of transnational civil litigation and corporate liability for gun violence

Published 8 June 2022


On 2 May, the Mexican Embassy in The Hague—in collaboration with the Asser Institute and the University of Amsterdam—organised an in-depth discussion on the ground-breaking case of Mexico v. Smith & Wesson filed last August in the District Court of Massachusetts. The Mexico v. Smith & Wesson litigation is a revolutionary way of addressing human rights claims through transnational civil claims that have also been featured in climate litigation, and aims to record numbers of gun violence in Mexico that has resulted in 34,000 lives lost in 2019 alone. 

Mexico has gone directly to the US courts, claiming $10 billion in damages from the arms manufacturers, due to their negligent failure "to exercise reasonable care" in the manufacturing, marketing and selling of their guns in ways that reduce their likelihood of being trafficked into Mexico. 

Their Principal Legal Advisor, Alejandro Celorio Alcántara, is leading what the Mexican press have referred to an "epic battle" against one of the most powerful industries in the US. Mr Celorio Alcántara’s recently returned from the first hearing of the case at the US District Court of Massachusetts, and was able to provide updated information on the progress of the case during the event.

The Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, asserted the importance of the event stating: "We continue with our claims for damages arising from the negligence of arms manufacturers. We need to dramatically reduce the availability of these weapons."

Asser Institute researcher, León Castellanos-Jankiewicz, has been following the Mexico v. Smith & Wesson case from the start and analysed its ground-breaking use of transnational litigation in a number of media, most recently in the Spanish-speaking Hablemos Derecho Internacional podcast. Castellanos-Jankiewicz was joined by Thilo Marauhn, the Special Chair for Arms Control Law based at the Asser Institute, as well as a panel of leading legal scholars from Georgetown University, Washington University St. Louis, Tilburg University, University of Amsterdam, IE University Madrid, and a practitioner from the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin who provided expert insight into both the legal strategy and the further implications of the litigation.

"The outcome of this case could not only benefit Mexico, but all countries in Central America that are suffering from gun violence," explains Castellanos-Jankiewicz. 

Issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and applicable law related to Mexico’s seising of the U.S. court system, as well as corporate liability were discussed in depth. The panel also covered the obligations of companies in respect to damage involving their products occurring across borders, including obligations arising out of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and the law relating to the arms trade.

Watch the discussion- Transnational civil litigation and corporate liability for gun violence: Mexico v Smith & Wesson:

Read more: 

[Interview] León Castellanos-Jankiewicz: 'Mexico is serious about making the US gun industry accountable for the damages caused with their products' by Diva Estanto
Asser Institute researcher León Castellanos-Jankiewicz is actively following the Mexico v. Smith & Wesson litigation, initiated by Mexico against six U.S. gun manufacturers, a potentially game-changing case for gun control. Read more

Mexico v. Smith & Wesson: US Court Duel Over Extraterritorial Legal Issues Looms with Motion to Dismiss by León Castellanos-Jankiewicz
On November 22, Smith & Wesson and other U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors moved to dismiss the civil complaint filed against them by Mexico in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. The case involves a number of transnational legal issues, including extraterritoriality, Mexico’s sovereign status, and the application of Mexican law in U.S. courts. The suit also highlights the growing relevance of transnational litigation in the field of corporate accountability. Read more

[This piece was originally published on the Asser Institute's website, available here.]