Drummond lawsuits (re Colombia)

Below are two case profiles detailing lawsuits against Drummond for its activities in Colombia.


Balcero Giraldo, et al., Romero, et al., & Estate of Valmore Lacarno Rodriguez v. Drummond Company

Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales, haga clic acá.

AUC credit flickr Silvia Andrea Moreno

In 2002, the families of three deceased Colombian labour leaders and the union they belonged to, Sintramienergética, filed suit against Drummond Company, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary Drummond Ltd. in US federal court.  The plaintiffs alleged that Drummond hired Colombian paramilitaries to kill and torture the three labour leaders in 2001.  Sintramienergética represents workers at Drummond’s coal mining operations in Colombia.  The case was brought under the US Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), US Torture Victim Protection Act and Alabama state law.  Drummond sought dismissal of the case, which the court granted as to the state law claims and one of the ATCA claims in 2003.  The court declined to dismiss the ATCA claims for extrajudicial killing and for denial of rights to associate and organise.  In March 2007, the court ruled that the case against Drummond Ltd. (the subsidiary) would go to trial, but dismissed the case against Drummond Company (the parent company).  In June of 2007, the district court judge dismissed the wrongful death claims, but the judge allowed the plaintiffs’ war crimes allegations under ATCA (summary execution) to stand.  The trial was held in July 2007.  The jury acquitted Drummond finding that the company was not liable for the deaths of the three murdered labour leaders.  On 11 December 2007, the plaintiffs filed their opening brief to appeal the lower court's verdict with the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. On 25 March 2015, the Court dismissed the lawsuit against Drummond on the basis that the harm occurred outside the US.

In March 2009, the children of three slain Colombian union leaders filed a new lawsuit in US federal court against Drummond alleging the company's complicity in the killings.  Another lawsuit was filed in US federal court against Drummond in May 2009 alleging that the company had made payments to the paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (known by its Spanish acronym AUC) to kill labour leaders.  Drummond has denied these allegations.  While a lower court dismissed the lawsuit brought by the union leaders' children, on 3 February 2011 the federal court of appeals reversed this dismissal and remanded the case to the lower court.  The court of appeals found that the children did have standing to pursue their claims against Drummond and remanded their previously dismissed claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act for further proceedings at the trial court level.  On 25 July 2013 the district court judge dismissed the case against Drummond finding that the court no longer had jurisdiction to hear the case, citing the US Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Shell. On 23 September 2014, a US federal appeals court affirmed a lower court’s order from 2012 to dismiss the lawsuit against Drummond on the basis that the “allegations and evidence…do not show conduct focused in the United States.”

In February 2013 a former contractor for Drummond was sentenced by a Colombian court to 38 years in prison for organizing the killing of two labour leaders in 2001.  The judge ordered prosecutors to investigate Drummond’s president and several former employees to determine whether they had a role in the killings. Consequently, in May 2015, a former executive of Drummond was charged with the murder of two trade unionists, after former paramilitaries claimed he took part in the murders ordered by the company. This case is now to be decided by Colombia’s Courts of Justice.

- Drummond Cleared on Death Squad Murders, Jack Bouboushian, Courthosue News, 26 Mar 2015
- War crimes lawsuit against Drummond dismissed, Ryan Poe, Birmingham Business Journal, 31 Jul 2013
Colombian judge convicts ex-contractor in Drummond union leader killing, Associated Press, 6 Feb 2013
- Mining Company Faces Suit Over Union Killings, Kevin Duvall, 4 Feb 2011
- Suit claims Ala. coal firm funded Colombian terror, Bob Johnson, AP, 28 May 2009
- Children Sue Ala. Company In Colombian Mine Deaths, Jay Reeves, AP, 20 Mar 2009
- Alabama Company Is Exonerated in Murders at Colombian Mine, Kyle Whitmore, New York Times, 27 Jul 2007
- Drummond case shows danger facing Colombian unions, Hugh Bronstein, Reuters, 16 Nov 2006
- US firm sued after mine union leaders' deaths, Andrew Gumbel, Independent [UK], 25 Mar 2002

Drummond Ltd.:
- Drummond does not negotiate with illegal groups; the Company emphatically rejects all charges against the company and its executives, 21 Mar 2007 [press release]
- Drummond's Colombian Operations

- US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: Jane Doe, et al. v. Drummond Company, 25 Mar 2015
- US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama: Balcero Giraldo, et al. v. Drummond Company - Memorandum Opinion Granting Summary Judgment, 25 Jul 2013
- Balcero Giraldo, et al. v. Drummond Company - Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, 17 Sep 2012
- US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: [PDF] Locarno Baloco, et al. v. Drummond Company, Inc., 3 Feb 2011
- Romero, et al. v. Drummond, et al. - Appellants' Opening Brief, 11 Dec 2007
- Estate of Valmore Lacarno Rodriguez v. Drummond Company - Complaint, 14 Mar 2002

- US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: Juan Aquas Romero v. Drummond Company, 14 Mar 2007 [order unsealing certain case documents]
- US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama: Estate of Valmore Lacarno Rodriguez v. Drummond Company, 14 Apr 2003 [order dismissing certain claims, declining to dismiss claims for extrajudicial killings and denial of rights to associate & organise]


Melo et al. v. Drummond Company

On 26 February 2013, family members of 34 Colombians killed by paramilitaries filed a complaint against Drummond in the US alleging that the company had hired the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) to protect Drummond’s Colombian mine operations in Cesar Province from civilians who lived in the area.  The complaint was brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) against Drummond and several of its officers.  The plaintiffs argued that Drummond was liable for aiding, abetting, conspiring with and having a relationship with the AUC, who are accused of extrajudicial killings, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.  Drummond denied the allegations and argued that the claim should be dismissed as US courts lack jurisdiction to hear the case.

On 26 April 2013, the plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint to the district court.  The company asked for the complaint to be dismissed.  On 15 January 2014, the court asked the parties why it should still hear the case given that in Daimler AG v. Bauman, the US Supreme Court ruled that the company’s ties with the US were not enough for the court to hear the case.  The plaintiffs concluded that all parties would benefit from the court’s assessment of the impact of Kiobel on three other similar Drummond ATS lawsuits pending, all of which could affect their claims.   On 4 February 2014, the district court stayed the case.

On 20 April 2015, after courts had decided two of the other Drummond ATS cases, the district court asked the parties to provide reasons on whether this case should be dismissed.  The plaintiffs argued that they had brought claims based on grounds other than ATS, which Kiobelwould have no impact on.  Drummond argued that all the claims should be dismissed.

On 26 January 2016, the district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims based on the decisions from the other Drummond lawsuits that were dismissed.  The plaintiffs appealed.  On 27 September 2016, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in part, and affirmed in part, the district court’s decision.  The appeals court said that the lower court could not summarily dismiss the plaintiff’s claims.  The court also found that corporations could not be sued under the TVPA, but that claims against Drummond’s officers could be considered.  The court also ruled that the ATS claim could be amended and refiled to meet the “touch and concern” test set by Kiobel.


Baker Botts LLP (Counsel for the defendants)
Brief of Appellees, 20 Jun 2016

International Rights Advocates (Counsel for the plaintiffs)
Melo et al. v. Drummond Company, Inc., Case information
11th Circuit Court of Appeals Issues Favorable Opinion in our case against Drummond, 27 Sep 2016
Appellants' Reply Brief, 22 Jul 2016
Appellants’ Opening Brief, 11 May 2016
First Amended Complaint, Terrence P. Collingsworth, International Rights Advocates & Eric J. Hager, Conrad & Scherer LLP, 26 Apr 2013
Plaintiff's Complaint, Thomas L. Carmichael, Carmichael Law Firm LLC, 26 Feb 2013

-  Opinion Issued on the Courts own Motion Opinion, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, 27 Sep 2016

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Author: Gwynne Skinner, Robert McCorquodale, Olivier De Schutter & Andie Lambe

"第三大支柱: 讓跨國公司侵犯人權行為的受害者獲得司法救濟", 2013年2月


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Author: Gwynne Skinner, Robert McCorquodale, Olivier De Schutter & Andie Lambe

"第三大支柱: 让跨国公司侵犯人权行为的受害者获得司法救济", 2013年2月


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Author: Confederación General del Trabajo

"Demandada la multinacional del carbón Drummond por violaciones a los derechos humanos, laborales y de salud de sus trabajadores", 19 Jul 2016

A los trabajadores de las minas de carbón de la Drummond en el departamento del Cesar los están matando las enfermedades producidas por la explotación del carbón, la corrupción de algunas Administradoras de Riesgos Profesionales que se niegan a asumir sus responsabilidades y la permanente violación de los derechos humanos de los mineros por parte de la empresa. Esta gravísima situación laboral y de salud, ha llevado a que por primera vez en Colombia, los trabajadores de la empresa agrupados en el sindicato Sintradem y la Confederación General del Trabajo, CGT, [hayan] entablado una demanda contra la multinacional estadounidense Drummond ante el Punto Nacional de Contacto, PNC de la Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico, OCDE...

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15 December 2015

Labour-Rights Lawyer Paid Witnesses And Lied About It, Judge Says

Author: Daniel Fisher, Forbes (USA)

The judge hearing [Drummond’s] defamation suit against an international labor-rights activist has issued a blistering ruling against the lawyer, accusing him of repeatedly lying about making payments to witnesses and possibly assisting them in committing perjury.  Collingsworth [sued] Drummond Coal over allegations the company collaborated with right-wing paramilitary officers to kill union officials…Those suits have all been dismissed, but Drummond fired back by suing Collingsworth for defamation.  The firm also accuses Dutch Oil company Llanos Oil in a separate suit of aiding in the conspiracy by paying one of the witnesses in Collingsworth’s case…U.S. District Judge…said he will allow Drummond to pierce the attorney-client privilege Collingsworth has used…[The judge] said there was ample evidence Collingsworth…had misled the court about their payments to witnesses…One of the most startling revelations to come out of the documents so far is that…one of the owners of Llanos Oil, paid a onetime Drummond contractor...right before [he] changed his testimony to implicate Drummond executives in the killing of two union officials…[T]he judge certified his order for an interlocutory appeal.  Collingsworth…said his lawyers will appeal this week…If the judge’s order stands, Drummond’s lawyers will issue more sweeping demands for communications between plaintiff lawyers and the witnesses…

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7 December 2015

Drummond v Collingsworth Order

Author: R. David Proctor, Judge for United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Southern Division

In the face of what is now indisputable evidence, it is clear, and Collingsworth admits, that he made “security” payments to  multiple (at least six) witnesses in South America as part of his prosecution of lawsuits against Drummond Coal Company…Collingsworth only disclosed three such payments to the court and Drummond.  In fact, on multiple occasions he has given sworn testimony that there were only three witnesses paid…The court finds that the crime-fraud exception applies here, and that it operates to pierce the work product and attorney client privileges to the extent explained in this opinion, thus allowing Drummond…to furrow deeper into the hole of matters otherwise covered by the veil of privacy.  Moreover, because the crime-fraud exception applies here, Drummond is entitled to a second round of discovery…In accordance with the findings of this Memorandum Opinion: (1) the remaining portions of the Report and Recommendation of Special Master Regarding Certain Issues Relating to the Court’s Hearing on Plaintiff’s Motion for Sanctions…are ADOPTED and  APPROVED, to be implemented consistent with this Opinion; and (2) Drummond Company, Inc.’s Motions to Compel Answers to Deposition Questions…are GRANTED, to be implemented consistent with this Opinion…

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28 May 2015

Colombia: Former Drummond executive charged with 2001 murder of 2 trade unionists

Author: Emma Rosser, Colombia Reports

"Drummond executive arrested over paramilitary murder charges", 26 May 2015

A Colombian executive of US-based coal company Drummond...Alfredo Araujo, the former Head of Industrial Relations for the Alabama-based coal miners, has been charged with the murder of two trade union activists lowered from a bus and shot in 2001...Former paramilitary...claimed he took part in the murders as part of the Northern Block of the AUC [United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia] and that they were ordered in response to a planned strike that would generate a loss for the multinational company...In 2009, a civil lawsuit was filed in US courts against the company. However, the US Court of Appeals filed the case on March 25th claiming a lack of adequate information to bring the international claim to US courts. This case is now to be decided by Colombia’s Courts of Justice...Araujo, Blanco’s inside contact at Drummond, has been provided two lawyers by the company and proceedings are expected to begin within a week...

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17 April 2015

Drummond sues NGO & others in US court for accusing firm of collaborating with paramilitaries over human rights abuses in Colombia

Author: Alice Bradshaw-Smith, Colombia Reports (Colombia)

“Drummond hits back at those who accused company of paramilitary ties,” 11 Apr 2015

…Drummond has sued those who had accused the…business of collaborating with paramilitaries guilty of human rights violations in Colombia. A recently filed lawsuit contends that several lawyers, an advocacy group and a Dutch competitor worked together to extort money from Drummond through their allegations against the company. Drummond…was accused of financing paramilitary groups responsible for 2,600 homicides, massacres, forced displacement, and disappearances…as was detailed in an investigative report released by the Dutch NGO PAX last year…The court concluded in their published report that there was no proof that “the paramilitaries were receiving payments from Drummond,” and determined that “the evidence presented by the plaintiffs did not prove the guilt of the defendants.”…The multinational’s claims...allege that its adversaries have violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a federal law generally used to combat the mafia….

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26 March 2015

USA: Federal appeals court dismisses lawsuit against Drummond over alleged complicity in killings in Colombia

Author: Jack Bouboushian, Courthouse News Service (USA)

"Drummond Cleared on Death Squad Murders", 26 Mar 2015

Relatives of victims killed by Colombian paramilitary forces cannot sue Drummond Co. in U.S. courts for its alleged support of the murders and other war crimes, the 11th Circuit ruled. Drummond…allegedly conspired with right-wing paramilitary forces of Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) to murder and terrorize union workers at mines owned by its Colombian subsidiaries…The Colombian government criminalized membership in and support of paramilitary groups in 1991. However, private security groups known as "convivir" units still organized under AUC leadership, and claimed to provide security for companies from left-wing attacks. The 11th Circuit recently threw out a similar lawsuit…basing its decision on the Supreme Court's ruling in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum…Similarly in this case, the 11th Circuit found that the alleged violations of international law all took place in Colombia, not in the U.S.

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5 December 2014

Access to justice for victims of human rights abuses needs to be strengthened

Author: Sif Thorgeirsson, Manager, Corporate Legal Accountability Project, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

‘Closing the courtroom door: where can victims of human rights abuse by business find justice?’, 1 Dec 2014

…[M]any victims of business-related human rights abuse have no access to judicial remedy in their home country…The majority of cases of abuse we see at Business & Human Rights Resource Centre occur in weak governance zones, which often do not have an independent judiciary, and sometimes lack fully functioning courts…Of the 108 legal cases the Centre has profiled,…[54%] are related to extraterritorial claims…[but t]he effect [of Kiobel] has been a near-freeze on victims seeking justice through this…avenue. At the time of…Kiobel…, there were at least 19 corporate Alien Tort cases pending in US courts.  Since then, only one new…case has been filed…While the scope for remedy from US and English courts is narrowing…there have been three cases filed in Canadian courts addressing extraterritorial business-related human rights abuse...[and]…cases…have been filed in France, Switzerland and Germany…Concerted action is needed by governments and others to reverse the trend toward closing…avenues to justice…[Also refers to Occidental Petroleum, Cisco Systems, Drummond, Chiquita, Rio Tinto,  Daimler, ExxonMobil, Nestle, CACI, L-3 Titan, Nevsun, Hudbay Minerals and Tahoe Resources]

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25 September 2014

Federal appeals court affirms dismissal of lawsuit claiming Drummond Co. role in Colombian murders

Author: Kent Faulk, al.com

An appeals court has affirmed a federal judge's dismissal of a lawsuit claiming Drummond Co. conspired with a paramilitary group to murder three union officials at the company's coal operation in Colombia…The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals…affirmed U.S. District Court Judge David Proctor's order dismissing the case in 2012…The appeals court also specifically addressed and dismissed the children's claims brought under the Alien Tort Statute. The appeals court stated the claims under that law could not be brought again because none of the conduct alleged against Drummond was focused within the United States.

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