In Mohammad v. Palestinian Authority (No. 11-88, decided April 18, 2012) the United States Supreme Court held that because the Torture Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”) created a cause of action only against “individuals,” claims under the TVPA could be brought only against natural persons, not organizations. Accordingly, the court dismissed a TVPA suit against the Palestinian Authority.
Although the Supreme Court characterizes the issue as one of straightforward statutory interpretation, it is an issue on which the circuits had previously been split. As Justice Breyer noted in a concurring opinion “[t]he word 'individual' is open to multiple interpretations, permitting it, linguistically speaking, to include natural persons, corporations, and other entities.”