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): Kyle Whitmire, New York Times

A federal jury found on Thursday that Drummond, an Alabama-based coal company, was not liable for the deaths of three union leaders at its mine near La Loma, Colombia, in 2001. The case...was the first of its kind to go to trial under the Alien Tort Statute... At trial...the plaintiffs could not prove clear connections between the company and the paramilitary groups... Similar lawsuits are pending against...Exxon Mobil, Occidental Petroleum and Chiquita Brands... The Drummond victory...will not likely deter similar lawsuits, [Peter J. Spiro, a law professor at Temple University] said, because the jury verdict does not test the underlying legal theory of the Alien Tort Statute. Those issues of the law’s application must be determined on the appellate level.

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Autor(a): Jay Reeves, Associated Press

After more than a decade of trying…to punish U.S. corporations for alleged wrongdoing overseas, organized labor lost the first such case ever to go before a jury… [L]awyers for both labor and corporate interests say rulings on appeals stemming from the trial may be more important in the long run than the verdict itself…. Families of the dead men and their union alleged the company was behind the gunshot killings by paramilitary forces. Jurors sided with Alabama-based Drummond, which denied any involvement with the killings or with militia forces. [also refers to Chevron]

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Artículo
26 July 2007

Drummond inocente [EE.UU.]

Autor(a): BBC Mundo

Un jurado de Estados Unidos declaró inocente a la compañía minera Drummond, con sede en Alabama, de cualquier tipo de vínculos con la muerte de tres sindicalistas colombianos en 2001...Dos de ellos, el presidente del sindicato local, Valmore Locarno, y otro dirigente, Víctor Orcasita, fueron sacados de un autobús de la compañía y ultimados a balazos...Los abogados de sus familiares y del sindicato, Sintramienergética, dijeron que apelarán contra la decisión del jurado de Alabama. Según ellos, Drummond contrató a los supuestos paramilitares que mataron a los sindicalistas. Sin embargo, la compañía negó cualquier relación con grupos armados de ultraderecha.

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Autor(a): AP

A lawyer for families suing [Drummond]…over the murders of three union leaders…asked jurors Wednesday to make the company pay for the killings. Drummond Ltd. helped anti-labor paramilitaries by allowing them safe haven on company property and providing them with gasoline, lawyers said during closing arguments. Company attorney Bill Jeffress denied Drummond had any role in the killings or ties to paramilitaries. “Yes, Drummond is a large company; it is a rich company. But Drummond is not a murderer,” he told jurors. Plaintiff's attorney Rusty Johnson asked for an unspecified amount of money to compensate the victims' relatives and to punish Drummond.

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

The president of Drummond's Colombian coal-mining unit testified Monday the company never paid illegal armed groups and made no agreements with any. "We don't make payments to illegal groups or make agreements," Augusto Jimenez testified in U.S. District Court in Birmingham….Jimenez and Drummond Ltd. are defendants in the lawsuit that was filed in 2002. A Colombian labor union and the families of three slain labor organizers said in their civil suit that Birmingham-based Drummond paid right-wing militia gunmen for their 2001 killings.

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

The extent of corporate liability for alleged human rights abuses committed abroad under the Alien Tort Claims Act is currently being tested in the Northern District of Alabama. The plaintiffs...allege that Alabama-based mining company Drummond Ltd. ("Drummond") was complicit in the murders of three union leaders at a Drummond-owned coal mine in Columbia. [T]he case presents a unique opportunity to test the extent of corporate liability under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA)…. Significantly, the Drummond case is the very first ATCA case to proceed to trial. [also refers to Unocal (now part of Chevron)]

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

A union official told jurors in the Drummond Co. war crimes trial…that the head of the company's Colombian operations [Augusto Jimenez] twice threatened him…Jimenez told [Juan Agaus]: "He who writes too much dies." The union official also said Jimenez gave him this warning: "The fish dies by its mouth." On Tuesday, another witness testified that Jimenez once remarked to him that "a fish that swims with its mouth open soon dies."

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Autor(a): Pui-Wing Tam, Wall-Street Journal

For the first time, a trial is scheduled to open in U.S. federal court this week over whether a U.S. company is accountable for alleged human-rights transgressions committed overseas. The case, in Birmingham, Ala., involves mining company Drummond Co. and its alleged collaboration with Colombian paramilitaries in 2001 to kill three mining-union leaders near a Drummond mine in La Loma, Colombia. Drummond has denied any role in the deaths of the union leaders. [also refers to ExxonMobil, Bridgestone-Firestone, Unocal]

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Artículo
9 July 2007

La demanda colombiana contra Drummond podría sentar precedente para las multinacionales en EE.UU.

Autor(a): Pui-Wing Tam, Wal Street Journal

El 9 de julio comenzará un juicio en un tribunal federal estadounidense —el primero de la historia—, en el que se decidirá si una empresa estadounidense es responsable por las violaciones a los derechos humanos cometidas en otro país. El caso, que irá a juicio en un tribunal del Distrito de Birmingham, Alabama, involucra a la minera Drummond Co. y su presunta colaboración con los paramilitares colombianos en 2001 para asesinar a tres líderes sindicales en La Loma. Drummond niega cualquier papel en las muertes de los sindicalistas.

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Autor(a): Amnesty International

...[T]housands of cases of threats and killings and a chronic lack of investigations and prosecutions, makes Colombia one of the most dangerous places in the world for trade unionists, according to a new report [:]...["]Killings, arbitrary detentions, and death threats -- the reality of trade unionism in Colombia["] highlights a pattern of systematic attacks against trade unionists involved in labour disputes and in campaigns against privatization and in favour of workers' rights in some areas where extractive industries operate. Colombia's National Trade Union School documented 2,245 killings, 3,400 threats and 138 forced disappearances of trade unionists between January 1991 and December 2006...Amnesty International is calling on companies working in Colombia to use their influence with the Colombian government to end and prevent human rights abuses against trade unionists. [includes links to full report and case studies. Full report refers to Drummond, Coca-Cola, Ecopetrol, AngloGold Ashanti (Kedahda S.A.)]

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