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20 Jul 2001

François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights [Harvard School of Public Health]

Coca-Cola lawsuit (re Colombia)


Date lawsuit was filed
20 Jul 2001
Ort der Einreichung: Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika
Ort des Vorfalls: Kolumbien


Coca-Cola Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika Nahrung & Getränke


The United Steelworkers Union and the International Labor Rights Fund sued the Coca-Cola Company and two of its Latin American bottlers – Bebidas y Alimentos and Panamerican Beverages, Inc. (Panamco) – in July 2001 in US federal court.  The lawsuit was brought by the Colombian trade union Sinaltrainal and five individuals and survivors who allege that the companies hired, contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that murdered and tortured the leaders of Sinaltrainal (which represents workers at the bottlers’ facilities).  The defendant companies argued that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate complicity between the companies and the paramilitary security forces.

In 2003, the court dismissed the case against Coca-Cola, but it allowed the case to proceed against the two bottlers. The following year the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint seeking to include Coca-Cola in the lawsuit due to its part ownership of Panamco through a 2003 acquisition.  In September of 2006, the court dismissed the claims against the two Coca-Cola bottlers and rejected the plaintiffs’ attempt to bring Coca-Cola back into the lawsuit.  The court held that the plaintiffs’ claims did not suffice to allege war crimes under international law, because the plaintiffs did not claim that the abuses occurred in the course of hostilities.  It also held that plaintiffs’ claims did not suffice to allege violations of other international human rights because the plaintiffs did not claim a sufficiently close relationship between the Colombian Government and the companies’ alleged involvement in the abuses.  In August 2009, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the lawsuit.

- "11th Circuit Cites 'Iqbal' in Affirming Dismissal of Alien Tort Claims Against Coca-Cola and Bottlers", Alison Frankel, American Lawyer, 13 Aug 2009
- “11th Circuit Asked to Clarify Corporate Liability”, Julie Kay, Daily Business Review, 30 Oct 2006
- “Hit squad lawsuit against Coke bottlers dismissed”, Duane Stanford, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4 Oct 2006
- “'Killer Coke' or Innocent Abroad?”, BusinessWeek, 23 Jan 2006
- “Coke's Colombian Controversy”, Scott Leith, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 13 Apr 2005
- “Coke Bottler Faces Death Suit”, Stefan Armbruster, BBC News, 02 Apr 2003 

Coca-Cola Company:
- Coca-Cola Company Statement: Miami Court Dismisses Colombia Lawsuit, 3 Oct 2006
- The Facts: The Coca-Cola Company and Colombia, 25 Jan 2006
- [ES] Colombia: Datos Importantes
- International Rights Advocates [plaintiffs' co-counsel]: SINALTRAINAL et al, v. The Coca-Cola Company, et al. - Case Summary

- [PDF] Sinaltrainal, et al. v. Coca Cola Company, et al., US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, 11 Aug 2009 [order affirming lower court's dismissal of lawsuit]
- [PDF] In re Sinaltrainal Litigation, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, 29 Sep 2006 [order dismissing the lawsuit]
- Sinaltrainal v. The Coca-Cola Company, 20 Jul 2001 [complaint in US District Court, Southern District of Florida]