Drummond Co., accused in a lawsuit of paying right-wing militiamen in Colombia to protect its coal shipments, won dismissal of the case following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a law often used in foreign human-rights claims.
U.S. District Judge David Proctor in Birmingham, Alabama, granted Drummond’s request to throw out the case on July 25, saying that the law on which the plaintiffs based the suit, the Alien Tort Statute, was no longer suitable. The Supreme Court in April limited the reach of the law.
The plaintiffs, represented by human rights lawyer Terry Collingsworth, didn’t provide enough evidence that actions in Colombia were orchestrated in the U.S. to proceed under the statute, Proctor said.
“There is nothing left in this final analysis to support plaintiffs’ contention” that the company made decisions in the U.S. “to conspire with and aid and abet the commission of war crimes in Colombia,” Proctor wrote.
Colombians living along a rail line Drummond used to ship coal from its mines to port sued the company in 2009. They claimed that the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, a right-wing paramilitary group known as AUC, tortured and killed their relatives in an effort to root out left-wing rebels who had blown up trains and track to halt Drummond’s shipments.
Proctor’s ruling is Collingworth’s third loss to Drummond. In 2007, an Alabama jury ruled that Drummond didn’t aid or abet the killing of union leaders representing workers at Drummond’s Colombian mines. A similar suit against the Birmingham-based company was dismissed in 2012.
Collingsworth says he plans to appeal Proctor’s decision.
“He made no comment on whether Drummond paid terrorists to kill people,” Collingsworth said in an interview. “It is against U.S. law to pay a foreign terrorist organization.”
The U.S. named the AUC a terrorist organization in 2001.
Stephen Bradley, a spokesman for Drummond with Stephen Bradley & Associates LLC in Birmingham, didn’t immediately return a telephone call or e-mail messages seeking comment on the ruling.
The case is Balcero Giraldo v. Drummond Co., 2:09-cv-1041, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama (Birmingham).