After an inquiry by the U.S. Justice Department, Chiquita pled guilty to funding terrorists in Colombia, but they have not compensated families whose loved ones were murdered by the terrorists they bankrolled. In 2007 we filed a class-action lawsuit accusing Chiquita of financing torture, war crimes, and other human rights abuses. Chiquita made regular monthly payments, totaling more than $1.7 million, to security forces controlled by the United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia, or AUC, a brutal paramilitary organization known for mass killing and designated by the United States Government as a terrorist organization. That designation made supporting the AUC a federal crime.
AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia) was a Colombian paramilitary group in the Colombian armed conflict during 1997 to 2006 who received payments to from Chiquita. The AUC is a designated terrorist organization.
Whether state law or foreign law applies to such claims.
Chiquita has admitted to paying the AUC during this time period and pled guilty to federal criminal charges for providing material support to the terrorist group.
We filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of affected Colombian families charging Chiquita with funding and arming the AUC in order to maintain its profitable control of Colombia’s banana growing regions. The case, originally filed in New Jersey, was subsequently coordinated with several other similar cases against Chiquita in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Chiquita filed a motion to dismiss, which the plaintiffs opposed.
The plaintiffs filed amended complaints; Chiquita submitted an additional motion to dismiss, and the parties submitted additional briefs on the motion.
The district court denied Chiquita’s motion to dismiss, finding that claims for extrajudicial killing, torture, crimes against humanity, and war crimes could proceed. Chiquita, however, appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
The plaintiffs sued several individual Chiquita executives involved in the illegal funding scheme, including former CEOs, General Counsels and General Managers.
After over two years of briefing and argument, a divided three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit dismissed the federal human rights claims. It dismissed claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Mohamed v. Palestinian Authority that TVPA claims cannot proceed against corporations. And despite the fact that Chiquita is a U.S. company that made decisions in the U.S. to finance the paramilitaries, in violation of U.S. criminal law, the Court found, based on a radically restrictive interpretation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, that the victims’ claims under the federal Alien Tort Statute (ATS) lacked sufficient connection to the U.S. to be heard in U.S. courts. We and the plaintiffs in turn then requested to have this decision be reconsidered in front of the full Eleventh Circuit. After that was denied, we filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the victims’ families, urging the Court to consider the case. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, declined to take the case.
Claims under Colombia law continue in the federal district court in Florida.
The victims cleared another hurdle: Florida federal judge Kenneth Marra rejected Chiquita’s argument that the case should be heard in Colombia rather than the United States, allowing this historic case to advance. We are currently proceeding toward trial against Chiquita and several of its former executives, scheduled to start in October 2019.
Chiquita Motion to Dismiss – July 2008
Plaintiffs’ Response in Opposition to Defendants’ Consolidated Motion to Dismiss the Complaints – August 2008
New Jersey Plaintiffs’ Separate Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss State Law Claims – August 2008
Reply in Support of Defendants’ Consolidated Motion to Dismiss Complaints – September 2008
First Amended Class Action Complaint for Damages – February 2010
Plaintiffs’ Supplemental Response in Opposition to Defendants’ Consolidated Motion to Dismiss the Complaints – May 2010
Defendants’ Memorandum in Support of Consolidated Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaints – April 2010
Chiquita Motion to Dismiss Order – June 2011
Chiquita Merits Brief on Interlocutory Appeal – May 2013
Plaintiffs’ Appellees Cross-Appellants’ Response Brief and Cross-Appeal Opening Brief – July 2013
Chiquita 11th Circuit Opinion – July 2014
Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc – August 2014
Chiquita Supreme Court Petition
Summary Judgment Decision-September 2019
Jane Doe 8 v. Chiquita Complaint (New Claims) – March 2020
(11th Circuit Court of Appeals) Plaintiffs-Appellants’ Opening Brief- May 2020
(11th Circuit Court of Appeals) Defendants-Appellees’/Cross-Appellants’ Response Brief and Cross-Appeal Opening Brief – July 2020
(11th Circuit Court of Appeals) Plaintiffs-Appellants’ Reply Brief and Cross-Appellees’ Response to Cross-Appeal – September 2020
(11th Circuit Court of Appeals) Brief of Amici Curiae Human Rights Practitioners and Scholars in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellants and Supporting Reversal – June 2020