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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Artículo
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Autor(a): Anthony Sebok, Cardozo Law School [USA], on FindLaw

Yesterday, a federal jury in San Francisco rejected every claim made by a group of Nigerians who had sued Chevron for its role in aiding and abetting a brutal 1998 attack by Nigerian government forces…. In this column, I will argue that the verdict is much less significant than it seems, and that critics of the ATS should be wary of reading too much into Chevron's victory. [also refers to Drummond]

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Autor(a): AP

The federal appeals court in Atlanta has upheld a verdict that cleared an Alabama coal producer in the shooting deaths of 3 Colombian union leaders. Families of the three killed by paramilitary forces in 2001 sued Drummond Co., but a jury in Birmingham rejected their claims in July 2007. Labor groups representing the relatives claimed U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre was wrong to bar testimony intended to tie Drummond to the slayings. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Bowdre's rulings in an opinion filed last week.

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Autor(a): Olga Martin-Ortega, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, University of East London [UK]

One of [the Colombian conflict] characteristics is the participation of external actors...The activities and working methods of certain multinational corporations in Colombia have had a direct impact on the development of the conflict in certain areas, particularly through their relationship with the paramilitary groups...This article analyses these relationships and the legal consequences that they have brought for the companies allegedly implicated in the murder, torture and intimidation of trade unionists...Finally this article analyses the legal initiatives to make these companies accountable before the United States courts, with particular focus in the cases against Coca-Cola...Drummond...and Chiquita...under the Alien Torts Claims Act. [also refers to Fresh Del Monte, Dole, Nestle]

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Artículo
6 January 2009

Acusan a 'Jorge 40' del crimen de dos sindicalistas de la Drummond [Colombia]

Autor(a): El Espectador [Colombia]

La Fiscalía General profirió resolución de acusación en contra de Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias ‘Jorge 40', y Oscar José Ospino Pacheco, alias ‘Tolemaida', por su presunta responsabilidad en el crimen de dos sindicalistas de la multinacional Drummond. Los hechos ocurrieron el 12 de marzo de 2001, cuando el bus en el que viajaban Valmore Locarno Rodríguez y Víctor Hugo Orcasita Amaya, presidente y vicepresidente de Sintramienergética...fue interceptado por hombres armados...

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Autor(a): Eric A. Savage & Michael G. Congiu, Littler Mendelson

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently endorsed the notion that multinational corporations may be held liable for violations of the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). Although the action did not result in a finding against the employer, the decision made clear that multinational employers…need to be aware that these claims are no longer a theoretical possibility, but a genuine source of potential liability…The case before the Eleventh Circuit, Juan Aquas Romero v Drummond Co., Inc….assessed a variety of issues involving both the TVPA and ATCA, shedding light on both corporate liability and the complicated evidentiary issues involved in this context.

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Autor(a): Jay Reeves, Associated Press

The children of three slain Colombian union leaders filed a lawsuit Friday reviving claims that the men's…employer was responsible for their killings outside a coal mine eight years ago. A similar lawsuit…ended with a verdict for mine operator Drummond Co. Inc. in 2007. But the plaintiffs…now have access to a key witness who couldn't testify in the first trial because he was in prison…The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Birmingham by eight children of Valmore Locarno, Victor Orcasita and Gustavo Soler, who all worked at Drummond's huge coal mine at La Loma…The lawsuit contends Drummond paid paramilitary forces to kill the men, a claim denied by Drummond and rejected by jurors…two years ago.

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20 May 2009

Demandarán a Drummond por pedir amparo a 'paras' [Colombia]

Autor(a): EFE

Varias Organizaciones sindicales y sociales revelaron que demandarán a la multinacional estadounidense Drummond por haber pagado "protección" a grupos paramilitares colombianos que asesinaron a más de 220 personas..."El texto definitivo (de la demanda) ya está elaborado, y estamos buscando el tribunal, en Estados Unidos o en Colombia, que más garantías" ofrezca, añadió el dirigente sindical...Las víctimas fueron sindicalistas, miembros de organizaciones sociales y pobladores de la zona...[se refiere tambien a demandas contra Dole Food Company, Oxy, Coca-Cola, Chiquita Brands, Dyncorp, Chevron Texaco]

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Autor(a): Bob Johnson, Associated Press

Relatives of dozens of slain Colombians sued [Drummond] in federal court Thursday, accusing it of making millions of dollars in payments to a paramilitary group that sowed terror in the South American country. The suit said 67 victims of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, also known as AUC, included unionists, farmworkers and others. It claimed the rightwing group received payments from operatives for Drummond allegedly to assassinate top union leaders and protect the company's large coal mine and railroad in Colombia. The lawsuit is much broader than one filed in March by the children of three slain Colombian union leaders against Drummond Co. Inc... A similar lawsuit ended in 2007 with a verdict for Drummond, which has repeatedly denied any connection with the Colombian violence.

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Autor(a): Michael Goldhaber, American Lawyer

Late Monday, on the eve of trial in New York, the parties settled in Wiwa v. Shell. For those with longer memories, it was reminiscent of March 2005, when another case hyped as the great breakthrough for corporate human rights, Doe v. Unocal, settled before trial on the merits…Absent a cathartic trial, can a winner be declared?...While the facts in dispute will never be settled, Wiwa has left its mark on law and legal culture -- and in this respect the movement for business human rights is the big winner. [also refers to Chevron, Curacao Drydock, Esmor Correctional Services, Drummond, Gap, Yahoo!]

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Artículo
24 August 2009

Alias 'Samario' aceptó homicidio de sindicalistas de la Drummond [Colombia]

Autor(a): El Espectador [Colombia]

Alcides Manuel Mattos Tavares, alias ‘Samario', aceptó ser el autor material del asesinato de Valmore Locarno Rodríguez y Víctor Hugo Orcasita Amaya, ambos sindicalistas de la Drummond...quienes se desempeñaban como presidente y vicepresidente del sindicato de la Drummond, murieron el 12 de marzo de 2001 en el municipio de Bosconia, Cesar, a manos de miembros de las AUC [Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia].

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