Drummond lawsuits (re Colombia)

 

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

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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

 

Criminal investigation against Drummond officials in Colombia

In October 2018, the Colombian Specialized Criminal Prosecutor's Office No. 247 reopened investigation against eight current and former Drummond officials over allegations of financing paramilitaries' war crimes in Colombia from 1996 to 2006. The company denied that it supported illegal armed groups in a statement and expressed willingness to cooperate with the authorities on the investigation.

- Drummond Officials Charged with Financing AUC War Crimes in Colombia, International Rights Advocates, 30 Oct 2018
- Colombia reopens probe into Alabama-based Drummond, Associated Press, Tuscaloosanews.com, 30 Oct 2018
- Colombia calls Drummond coal officials to testify on paramilitaries: source, Reuters, 30 Oct 2018
- Statement to the public opinion, Drummond, 30 Oct 2018

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Artículo
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Autor(a): Hugh Bronstein, Reuters

The U.S. federal lawsuit filed in Drummond's home state of Alabama [over alleged involvement in the killings of Colombian trade unionists] has gained attention in Europe, where power companies DONG of Denmark and Essent of the Netherlands said last week they halted new coal purchases from the company. Both are minor clients... Drummond on Thursday denied the accusations in the suit. "We are under a restricted comment directive from the court regarding the lawsuit in question," a Drummond official said. "While we cannot comment on specifics, we strongly deny the accusations and look forward to evidence being heard with complete exoneration."...Companies such as Coca-Cola and British Petroleum have faced criticisms from human rights groups over labor issues. Chiquita Brands International pulled out of the country after admitting it had paid an illegal militia for protection.

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Autor(a): Mike Linn, Montgomery Advertiser [USA]

An Alabama journalist wants a federal appeals panel to unseal documents in the case against a Birmingham coal company accused in the killings of union leaders at its operations in Colombia.... A March 2002 civil case filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham alleges that "agents or employees" of Drummond Company...in Colombia, killed three union representatives in 2001, allegations the company denies in court papers.

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Autor(a): Stephen Flanagan Jackson, LatinAmericanPost.com

An Alabama coal giant faces a May 14 jury trial for the three 2001 wrongful deaths of its Colombia employees---all union leaders at its Colombia coal mine. US Federal Judge Karon O. Bowdre allowed the one charge---a tort for damages---to remain in the unsolved murders of the three coal mine workers. The judge threw out several other charges against Drummond Co. and its Colombia subsidiary for lack of evidence...The status of the blockbuster testimony of a key Colombia witness, Rafael Garcia, remains up in the air in the case which was filed in March 2002 under the...Alien Tort Claims Act...[also refers to Southern Company, Alabama Power, Gulf Power]

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Autor(a): AP

More than 800 trade unionists have been killed in Colombia over the past six years, by government count, yet the number of those murders solved can be counted on one hand. Union organizing can be a deadly activity anywhere but is particularly dangerous in Colombia, where decades of political violence and lawlessness compel some unscrupulous employers to hire assassins...Colombia's reputation...threatens to sink...[the] free trade agreement with U.S...A federal judge in Alabama on Monday, March 5 ruled that a civil suit could go to trial against Birmingham-based Drummond Co. Inc., whose local president is alleged to have played a role in the killings [of three mining union leaders]...Among the victims is Jorge Abril Parra, who was shot twice in the head last year on his way to work at "Tapas La Libertad," a metal caps and bottling plant owned by one of Colombia's biggest conglomerates...A spokeswoman for Tapas La Libertad did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

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Autor(a): Jay Reeves, Associated Press

A federal judge has cleared the way for a civil lawsuit to go to trial accusing an Alabama coal company's Colombian arm of complicity in the killings of three union leaders in the South American country in 2001. Drummond Ltd. and its president, Augusto Jimenez, must answer wrongful death claims made in the lawsuit filed five years ago by the Colombian union Sintramienergetica...Bowdre dismissed other claims, including all accusations of wrongdoing against the privately held Drummond Co. Inc., which is based in Birmingham and is the parent company of Drummond Ltd...Drummond has denied any involvement in the killings...

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Autor(a): Jay Reeves, Associated Press

Siding with a journalism teacher [Stephen Flanagan Jackson] who challenged secrecy in the case, the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre overstepped her authority by sealing the documents in a lawsuit against Drummond Ltd., which operates a mine in Colombia....A Colombian labor union filed suit in 2002 in Birmingham with help from the United Steelworkers of America, blaming Drummond for the killings of three union leaders at the company's mine in northern Colombia in 2001. Bowdre sealed dozens of records in the case, making it virtually impossible to follow the lawsuit.

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Autor(a): Jay Reeves, Associated Press

Faced with a lawsuit over the slayings of three union leaders in Colombia, an Alabama coal company [Drummond Company] quietly lobbied the [US] State Department in an apparent bid to have the suit thrown out, according to court records and an attorney in the case....The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals spelled out the failed lobbying attempt by Drummond in a decision Wednesday that unsealed key records that had been kept from public view.

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Autor(a): Javier Baena, Associated Press

Colombia's chief prosecutor said Tuesday he will demand the extradition of eight people allegedly involved with Chiquita's payments to right-wing paramilitaries and leftist rebels in a region where it had profitable banana-growing operations. The prosecutor also said...that his office had opened a formal investigation into allegations that Alabama-based coal producer Drummond Co. Inc. collaborated with paramilitaries to kill union members. A civil lawsuit in the U.S. makes similar allegations, which the company has denied...Chiquita spokesman Mike Mitchell declined to discuss the eight people that Colombia wants extradited...[also refers to Banadex]

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Autor(a): Helda Martínez, Inter Press Service

"We believe it's a deliberate distortion to present the problem of human rights violations in Colombia as the result of a simple struggle between good guys and bad guys," [Colombian] lawyer and trade unionist Francisco Ramírez told IPS. "What is happening here is a war of economic interests." Ramírez was speaking before a Mar. 3 meeting between trade unionists and U.S. Democrat Representative James McGovern.... [i]n which the workers said they were "tired of our people being killed, of the constant abuses and the impunity."…The union representatives showed McGovern, using maps and documents, the patterns and forms that harassment and violence against mine workers take in Colombia.... [also refers to BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Glencore International, Occidental Petroleum, Cemex, Drummond]

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Autor(a): Russell Hubbard, Birmingham News [USA]

Drummond Co. said today it has no plans to reach an out-of-court settlement with people who sued the company over the 2001 killings of union activists connected to its coal mine in Colombia. "Other multinational companies have been subject to similar claims," Drummond said in a statement to The Birmingham News. "Some have reached settlement agreements ... Drummond will not settle or make any payments."

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