Victims of paramilitary violence who are seeking compensation from Chiquita said Friday to be disappointed about a US court ruling to dismiss claims brought against the banana giant, and said to seek a reversal of the verdict.
A divided federal appeals court on Thursday threw out claims potentially worth billions of dollars against produce giant Chiquita Brands International made by relatives of thousands of Colombians killed during years of bloody civil war.
A panel of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that federal courts have no jurisdiction over the Colombian claims. The lawsuits accused Chiquita of assisting in the killings by paying $1.7 million to right-wing paramilitary group AUC.
According to attorney Terry Collingsworth, the court “dismissed the cases for lack of jurisdiction based on the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., which held that claims brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) must have a significant connection to the United States.”
“In mechanically applying ‘Kiobel’ to Plaintiffs’ ATS claims in ‘Chiquita’, the Eleventh Circuit panel ignored the major distinctions between the two cases, including that the defendant in ‘Kiobel’ was a Dutch-British national and all of the relevant conduct took place in Nigeria. Chiquita is a U.S. company that pled guilty in U.S. criminal court for funding a terrorist paramilitary organization in Colombia, and the decisions made by Chiquita that led to the human rights violations against Plaintiffs were made in the U.S. and funded from the U.S,” said Collingsworth in a press release.
“The Eleventh Circuit also failed to address two other claims made by the Plaintiffs against Chiquita that are not dependent upon the ATS. First, the Plaintiffs made claims under state law and the law of Colombia for wrongful death and other common tort claims and the court has jurisdiction over those claims. Second, they made claims against individual Chiquita officers who were involved in funding the Colombian terrorist organization under a different U.S. law, the Torture Victims Protection Act, which remain viable.The Alien Tort Statute allows foreign nationals to seek remedies in US district courts for human rights violations committed abroad,” added the human rights attorney.
Some 4,000 family members of Colombians killed by the AUC sued Chiquita in 2011 to force the banana company to compensate the family members of victims of paramilitary violence after a US court in 2007 found the company guilty of financing the AUC, accused of tens of thousands of human rights violations during its existence between 1997 and 2006.
While Chiquita was sentenced to pay a $25 million fine, the victims of the Chiquita-related violence were never compensated.
Collingsworth said in a press release he would “seek further review in the Eleventh Circuit, and if necessary, the Supreme Court.”
- Eleventh Circuit Decision in Chiquita Alien Tort Status Litigation (Terry Collingsworth / IR Advocates)