Case profile: Drummond lawsuit (re Colombia)

Business and Human Rights

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 Drummonds 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.

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.

– „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.: [PDF] 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 Company: Drummond’s Colombian Operations

– International Rights Advocates [plaintiffs co-counsel]: Drummond [includes links to certain news items about the case and certain legal documents]

– US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: [PDF] Locarno Baloco, et al. v. Drummond Company, Inc., 3 Feb 2011

– [PDF] Romero, et al. v. Drummond, et al. – Appellants‘ Opening Brief, 11 Dec 2007

– [PDF] Estate of Valmore Lacarno Rodriguez v. Drummond Company – Complaint, 14 Mar 2002

– US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: [PDF] Juan Aquas Romero v. Drummond Company, 14 Mar 2007 [order unsealing certain case documents]

– US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama: [PDF] 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]