Drummond lawsuits (re 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

 

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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Autor(a): Russell Gold, Wall Street Journal

A bloody protest by Nigerian villagers against Chevron Corp. in 1998 has led to a closely watched federal lawsuit that could have a far-reaching impact on how multinational companies conduct business overseas. The jury in the civil trial…began deliberating its verdict Tuesday. Its conclusion could strengthen an evolving legal frontier: Can multinational companies be hauled into U.S. courts and held accountable for alleged human-rights violations that occur on its properties overseas?... The case centers on a 1998 protest involving about 100 Ilaje villagers from coastal Nigeria, who occupied an offshore oil facility owned by Chevron. After the villagers stayed for three days, Chevron called in the Nigerian military to remove them. The response was bloody: two protesters were shot and killed. Others were taken into custody and allegedly tortured, according to court filings... [It] is a major test of the Alien Tort Claims Act against a major corporation. It is also the first time the courts have tested whether a corporation can be held responsible for the actions of local authorities it calls in for protection... The suit against Chevron raises a set of tough issues for oil companies with large capital investments overseas. In Nigeria and many other countries, multinational corporations aren't allowed to maintain their own security forces and must rely on the military for protection, says Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, an analyst with political-risk consultant Eurasia Group... “Corporations are watching to see if a U.S. jury is willing to award damages in a situation where a corporation is indirectly responsible,” says Chimene Keitner, an associate law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law… [also refers to Drummond, Shell]

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Autor(a): Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Today the non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches a free online portal – the first to bring together and demystify lawsuits from across the world alleging human rights abuses by companies. The portal summarises in non-legal language over 35 cases and the positions of each side, with more cases to be added soon. It also presents special commentaries by experts...Companies in profiled lawsuits include: AngloGold Ashanti, Barclays, BHP Billiton, Biwater, Blackwater, BP, Cambior, Cape PLC, Chevron/Texaco, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Dow/Union Carbide, Drummond, DynCorp, ExxonMobil, Firestone, Ford, Freeport-McMoRan, IBM, Mitsubishi, Nike, Occidental, Rio Tinto, Severstal, Shell, Standard Chartered, Talisman, Trafigura, Total, UBS, Wal-Mart, Yahoo!

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Autor(a): Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle

Larry Bowoto's left arm is still scarred and numb where a soldier's bullet struck it in 1998 while he was aboard a Chevron oil platform in Nigeria….On Monday, in only the second trial of its kind, a federal jury will convene in San Francisco to decide whether Bowoto and his companions were violent hostage takers or innocent victims - and whether a U.S. corporation, whose foreign subsidiary summoned the security forces, is responsible for the bloodshed…. [Chevron] paints a different picture: Bowoto, the company says, led a group of armed men who seized the platform, demanding jobs and money, and held 200 employees captive during three days of fruitless negotiations before Chevron's Nigerian subsidiary…called for military help. [also refers to lawsuits against Unocal (now part of Chevron), Shell, Drummond]

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Autor(a): Michael Goldhaber with Daphne Eviatar, American Lawyer

...[A pending case against Chevron] explores the company's alleged complicity in killing one man and injuring three others. The suit was brought under the alien tort statute, which allows U.S. recovery for overseas violations of the law of nations... [The] plaintiffs bar is still gunning for its first trial victory on the theory of "corporate alien tort."... Some industry attorneys dismiss these claims as the fevered imaginings of global ambulance chasers. But, putting aside the merit or prospects of each case, there's no denying the inherent risks of abuse in the business of extraction. [also refers to lawsuits against Texaco, Unocal (both now part of Chevron), Drummond, Talisman; positive steps by BP]

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

Drummond Co.'s July legal victory over accusations it ordered the murders of three Colombian labor leaders has been appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta…. The appeal stems from the 2001 deaths of three Colombian miners who were leaders of the labor union at Drummond's coal mine…. At the center of the appeal are the rulings of federal District Judge Karen Bowdre that prohibited the testimony of three men the union says had firsthand knowledge of Drummond's links with anti-union gunmen allied with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which goes by the Spanish abbreviation AUC.

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Autor(a): Faith E. Gay & J. Noah Hagey, New York Law Journal

In the last decade, a veritable "who's who" of international businesses…have been sued in federal court under the United States' 215-year-old Alien Tort Statute…. On Oct. 12, 2007, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed this expansive trend, holding that corporations may be held liable for aiding and abetting a third party's human rights violations abroad under this long dormant statute. Khulumani v. Barclay Nat. Bank Ltd..... The Khulumani opinion's recognition of aiding and abetting liability for corporations under the ATS was, however, counterbalanced by the 2nd Circuit's acknowledgment of the manner in which "prudential" doctrines…can be used as a means of early termination for ATS claims. [also refers to Pfizer, Caterpillar, DaimlerChrysler (now Daimler), Texaco, UBS, Yahoo, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Bridgestone/Firestone, Chiquita, Chevron, Gap, Exxon, Arab Bank, Drummond]

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Autor(a): Jonathan Drimmer, Steptoe & Johnson, in Legal Times

Though a recent verdict in a high-profile Alien Tort Claims Act case in Alabama resulted in a resounding victory for Drummond..., multinational corporations still have great concerns...[T]he case represents the first corporate ATCA lawsuit to survive dismissal motions and proceed through trial. That trial, along with a growing wave of high-stakes ATCA lawsuits against multinational corporations and their executive officers, means that companies and their in-house counsel are going to have to focus on ATCA issues more than ever... Here are four modest suggestions for helping companies weather the ATCA storm. [also refers to lawsuits against Texaco (part of Chevron), Bridgestone Firestone, Yahoo, Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland, Dole, Dow Chemical, Chiquita]

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Autor(a): Bill Baue, SocialFunds

The first-ever corporate ATCA verdict of not guilty does not diminish the ongoing liabilities companies face in US courts for human rights violations committed overseas. Late last month, a federal jury delivered the verdict in the first corporate Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) case to make it through trial, finding Drummond coal company not complicit in the 2001 murder of three union leaders at one of its mines in Colombia. Drummond’s reprieve may be temporary, however, as the plaintiffs filed appeals protesting the judge’s exclusion or limitation of eye-witness testimony...[also refers to Chevron, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Exxon-Mobil, Firestone (part of Bridgestone), Shell, Wal-Mart]

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Autor(a): Ken Stier, Time magazine

During a two week trial, a Birmingham [Alabama, USA] jury weighed charges that the local Drummond Coal Company bore responsibility for the murders of three union leaders who represented workers at its Colombian mine... The [union leaders'] widows lost their suit last week... [This and] other cases...rely on a law that dates back to 1789 known as the Alien Tort Claims Act [ATC]...[which] has been deployed by labor groups and NGOs trying to punish and modify the behavior of U.S. companies abroad. [also refers to lawsuits against Texaco (now Chevron), Chiquita]

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Autor(a): Benito Perez, Le Courrier [Suisse]

Le grand déballage sur les crimes paramilitaires a commencé en Colombie. Avec les aveux en mars dernier de Chiquita et le procès intenté à Drummond, les Etats-Unis s'interrogent sur la responsabilité de leurs transnationales dans la campagne de terreur qui a coûté la vie à 2400 syndicalistes depuis 1991... Pour la première fois, un jury populaire étasunien s'est prononcé jeudi...sur les présumées exactions [de Drummond]... En l'absence – opportune – de leurs deux témoins centraux, Sintraminergetica et les familles des syndicalistes ont été déboutés. [fait aussi référence à Banadex, ancienne filiale de Chiquita]

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