Slavery reparations lawsuit (re USA)

SlaveryDescendants of 19th-century African-American slaves filed nine lawsuits seeking reparations from corporations in various US federal courts during 2002.  The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant corporations (financial, railroad, tobacco, insurance, and textile companies), or their predecessors, had ties to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and were unjustly enriched from the labour of African-American slaves.  In October 2002, these lawsuits were consolidated into one class-action lawsuit.  In 2004, the court dismissed the claim but allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint.  The plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint making claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, civil rights violations due to the denial of property rights and consumer fraud.  In July 2005, the court again dismissed these claims.  The opinion noted that these claims raised a “political question”, and therefore were beyond the scope of the federal judiciary.  In addition, the court found that the plaintiffs did not have proper standing to bring the lawsuit against the named defendants and that the plaintiffs’ claims were precluded by the statute of limitations.  In December 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ consumer fraud claims, while upholding the dismissal of the balance of the plaintiffs’ claims.  The court of appeals found that questions remained as to whether consumers were defrauded by the failure of the defendant companies to reveal their alleged collaboration with slavery.  In May 2007, the plaintiffs petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear their appeal of the 2006 court of appeals decision.  The Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition in October 2007, declining to hear the case.

- “A Federal Court of Appeals Revives a Class Action Seeking Compensation for Slavery in America”, Anthony Sebok, Findlaw’s Writ, 19 Dec 2006
- “Most of slavery reparations suit thrown out”, Mike Robinson, Associated Press, 14 Dec 2006
- “Slave descendants attempt to revive reparations lawsuit against 17 insurers and banks”, Associated Press, 27 Sep 2006
- “The Lawsuit Brought by African-Americans Seeking Compensation from Corporations for The Wrongs of Slavery: Why the Opinion Dismissing the Suit Is Unpersuasive”, Anthony Sebok, Findlaw’s Writ, 8 Aug 2005
- “Slave reparations case dismissed”, Associated Press, 26 Jan 2004
- “Federal Lawsuit Seeks Slave Reparations from Three Companies”, William Baue, Social Funds, 18 Apr 2002

- National Legal and Policy Center: [PDF] The Case Against Slave Reparations, Peter Flaherty & John Carlisle, 25 Oct 2004
- CSX: Statement in Response to Demands for Financial Reparations, 16 Aug 2002
- Aetna: Statement Regarding Slavery Reparations Lawsuit, 27 Mar 2002

- Plaintiffs’ press release: “Slave Descendant Takes Reparations Case to the United States Supreme Court”, 23 May 2007
- [PDF] Corporate Restitution for Slavery: Plaintiff and Defendant Information, Deadria C. Farmer-Paellmann [plaintiff]

US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit: In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation:

Decision reversing the lower court’s dismissal in part and affirming the dismissal in part, 13 Dec 2006 
- briefs by plaintiffs & defendants are here
- MP3 audio of oral argument is here

US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois:

In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation, 6 Jul 2005 [opinion dismissing plaintiffs’ claims]
- [PDF] In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation - Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss, 18 Jul 2003
- [PDF] Farmer-Paellmann v. FleetBoston et al. - First Consolidated and Amended Complaint and Jury Demand, 16 Jun 2003

US District Court for the Eastern District of New York

- [PDF] Farmer-Paellmann v. FleetBoston et al. - Complaint, 26 Mar 2002

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Lawsuit
18 February 2014

Slavery reparations lawsuit (re USA)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Descendants of 19th-century African-American slaves filed nine lawsuits seeking reparations from corporations in various US federal courts during 2002.  The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant corporations (financial, railroad, tobacco, insurance, and textile companies), or their predecessors, had ties to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and were unjustly enriched from the labour of African-American slaves.  In October 2002, these lawsuits were consolidated into one class-action lawsuit.  In 2004, the court dismissed the claim but allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint.  The plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint making claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, civil rights violations due to the denial of property rights and consumer fraud.  In July 2005, the court again dismissed these claims.  The opinion noted that these claims raised a “political question”, and therefore were beyond the scope of the federal judiciary.  In addition, the court found that the plaintiffs did not have proper standing to bring the lawsuit against the named defendants and that the plaintiffs’ claims were precluded by the statute of limitations.  In December 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ consumer fraud claims, while upholding the dismissal of the balance of the plaintiffs’ claims.  The court of appeals found that questions remained as to whether consumers were defrauded by the failure of the defendant companies to reveal their alleged collaboration with slavery.  In May 2007, the plaintiffs petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear their appeal of the 2006 court of appeals decision.  The Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition in October 2007, declining to hear the case.

- “A Federal Court of Appeals Revives a Class Action Seeking Compensation for Slavery in America”, Anthony Sebok, Findlaw’s Writ, 19 Dec 2006
- “Most of slavery reparations suit thrown out”, Mike Robinson, Associated Press, 14 Dec 2006
- “Slave descendants attempt to revive reparations lawsuit against 17 insurers and banks”, Associated Press, 27 Sep 2006
- “The Lawsuit Brought by African-Americans Seeking Compensation from Corporations for The Wrongs of Slavery: Why the Opinion Dismissing the Suit Is Unpersuasive”, Anthony Sebok, Findlaw’s Writ, 8 Aug 2005
- “Slave reparations case dismissed”, Associated Press, 26 Jan 2004
- “Federal Lawsuit Seeks Slave Reparations from Three Companies”, William Baue, Social Funds, 18 Apr 2002

- National Legal and Policy Center: [PDF] The Case Against Slave Reparations, Peter Flaherty & John Carlisle, 25 Oct 2004
- CSX: Statement in Response to Demands for Financial Reparations, 16 Aug 2002
- Aetna: Statement Regarding Slavery Reparations Lawsuit, 27 Mar 2002

- Plaintiffs’ press release: “Slave Descendant Takes Reparations Case to the United States Supreme Court”, 23 May 2007
- [PDF] Corporate Restitution for Slavery: Plaintiff and Defendant Information, Deadria C. Farmer-Paellmann [plaintiff]

US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit: In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation:
- Decision reversing the lower court’s dismissal in part and affirming the dismissal in part, 13 Dec 2006
- briefs by plaintiffs & defendants are here
- MP3 audio of oral argument is here

US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois:
- In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation, 6 Jul 2005 [opinion dismissing plaintiffs’ claims]
- [PDF] In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation - Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss, 18 Jul 2003- [PDF] Farmer-Paellmann v. FleetBoston et al. - First Consolidated and Amended Complaint and Jury Demand, 16 Jun 2003

US District Court for the Eastern District of New York
- [PDF] Farmer-Paellmann v. FleetBoston et al. - Complaint, 26 Mar 2002

Article
19 December 2006

A Federal Court of Appeals Revives a Class Action Seeking Compensation for Slavery in America

Author: Anthony J Sebok, in FindLaw

Efforts to hold corporate America accountable for slavery got an unexpected boost last week, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit revived a massive class action litigation that had been dismissed by a federal district court in Chicago...When the suits were first filed, in 2002, the plaintiffs emphasized the human rights dimension of the injuries for which they were suing. The complaints emphasized, for example, that slavery was a violation of customary international law, regardless of the fact that it may have been legal in certain states when it occurred...As amended, the plaintiffs' complaint dropped all references to violations of human rights, and based the claim for compensation, instead, on much more conventional legal claims for property and personal injury. [refers to CSX, Aetna, FleetBoston (now part of Bank of America). Also refers to Nike v. Kasky, Oliveira v. Amoco Oil lawsuits]

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Article
28 September 2006

Court hears appeal of reparations suit [USA]

Author: Natasha Korecki, Chicago Sun-Times

The national slavery reparations movement attempted to keep its cause alive in a federal appeals court Wednesday, arguing that major corporations financed the 19th-century slave trade and should have to pay millions of dollars today to slave descendants... Corporations including JPMorgan Chase, Aetna, Bank of America, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. [now Reynolds American], CSX Corp., New York Life Insurance Co. and about a dozen others were named as defendants... But lawyers representing the companies said the current claims fail to prove a connection to the defendants.

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Article
28 September 2006

Slave Descendants Try to Revive Landmark Reparations Case [USA]

Author: Ashley M. Heher, Associated Press

Lawyers for slave descendants asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to revive a landmark reparations case that demands 17 of the nation's insurers and banks publicize and pay for their roles in the country's slave trade. The case...names...JP Morgan Chase & Co., Aetna Inc., Bank of America, Lehman Brothers and others... [L]awyers for the companies told a panel of judges at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that the case is without merit... The three-judge panel seemed to agree.

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Article
2 June 2005

Wachovia apologizes for slavery ties - Bank satisfies Chicago ordinance requiring companies with city contracts to disclose slavery ties [USA]

Author: Katie Benner, CNN/Money

Wachovia Corporation has apologized for its ties to slavery after disclosing that two of its historical predecessors owned slaves and accepted them as payment. [also refers to Georgia Railroad and Banking Company, Bank of Charleston (now both part of Wachovia); JPMorgan Chase; lawsuits against RJ Reynolds (part of Reynolds American), Aetna]

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Article
1 December 2004

[PDF] The Changing Landscape of Liability - A Director’s Guide to Trends in Corporate Environmental, Social and Economic Liability

Author: SustainAbility

[refers to Phillip Morris (part of Altria), McDonald's, Nestlé, Nike, Unocal, Ford, Shell, Monsanto, ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical, Union Carbide (part of Dow Chemical), Talisman, Walt Disney, Swiss Re, General Motors, General Electric, Texaco (part of ChevronTexaco), Chevron (part of ChevronTexaco), Gap, Southern Peru Copper (joint venture Grupo México, Cerro Trading, Phelps Dodge), Coca-Cola, Rio Tinto, Freeport McMoRan, Del Monte (Fresh Del Monte Produce), Dyncorp (part of Computer Sciences), Barclays, Cape plc, Mitsubishi, Total, Burger King, KFC (part of YUM!), Kraft Foods (part of Altria), PepsiCo]

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Article
23 August 2004

Pay back

Author: Jon Robins, The Lawyer [UK]

Thousands of former Nazi slave labourers began receiving final payments this month from a multibillion dollar German compensation fund after years of legal wrangling...“It is hardly a king’s ransom, and, in terms of the labour itself, it’s more a symbol of accountability,” says Stuart Eizenstat, the lawyer who was deputy secretary of the treasury in Bill Clinton’s administration and special envoy for Holocaust-related issues... Eizenstat believes that one lasting impact is that the legal battle has created “a higher moral standard” for companies. [refers to Lloyd's of London, in context of US slavery reparations lawsuit]

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Article
4 July 2004

[Reading list for "Human Rights in the Marketplace" course]

Author: Professor Margaret Bedggood

[course taught at Summer School in Intl. Human Rights Law, Oxford Univ. & George Washington Univ. Law School, 2004]

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Article
29 March 2004

Slave Descendants File $1B Lawsuit

Author: Associated Press

The suit filed in federal court in Manhattan accuses Lloyd's of London, FleetBoston and R.J. Reynolds of "aiding and abetting the commission of genocide" by allegedly financing and insuring the ships that delivered slaves to tobacco plantations in the United States.

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Article
29 March 2004

Slave descendants to sue Lloyd's

Author: BBC

Descendants of black American slaves are to sue Lloyd's of London for insuring ships used in the trade.

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