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10 Jun 2024

Cohen Milstein

Jury verdict reached: Chiquita liable for murders of Colombian terror victims – must pay $38.3 million

Today, a South Florida jury found Chiquita Brands International responsible for the wrongful deaths of eight men who were murdered by Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) and awarded the surviving family members $38.3 million in damages for the deaths of eight of victims.

The eight plaintiffs in this case are the surviving family members of the victims, who include husbands and sons targeted and killed by the AUC, a brutal paramilitary known for mass killing and designated by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. That designation made supporting the AUC a federal crime. The plaintiffs alleged that Chiquita paid the AUC nearly $2 million, while facilitating shipments of arms, ammunition and drugs, despite knowing that the AUC was an illegal organization engaged in a reign of terror.  

“Our clients risked their lives to come forward to hold Chiquita to account, putting their faith in the United States justice system.  I am very grateful to the jury for the time and care they took to evaluate the evidence,” said Agnieszka Fryszman, chair of Cohen Milstein’s Human Rights practice and one of the attorneys leading the case...

The civil claims were brought on the heels of a 2007 Chiquita guilty plea to criminal charges brought by the United States. The Department of Justice described Chiquita’s support to the AUC as “prolonged, steady, and substantial.”

The claims were consolidated by the multidistrict litigation (MDL) panel and heard by a federal court in Florida. A group of plaintiffs, referred to as “bellwether” plaintiffs, was selected to proceed to trial. This jury verdict concludes the first six-week bellwether jury trial, which began on April 22, 2024. The second bellwether trial is scheduled for July 15, 2024...