Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Baker Botts Beats Back Alien Tort Suits Against Drummond (Again)
By Andrew Longstreth

Two years ago Baker Botts partner William Jeffress won a defense verdict for coal mining company Drummond in what was believed to be the first Alien Tort Claims Act case to go to trial. Despite the verdict--which was later upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit--Drummond is still facing litigation over the 2001 murder of three union leaders at a Colombian mine.But the plaintiffs suing Drummond haven't gotten very far. On Monday, Birmingham federal district court judge R. David Proctor dismissed a suit brought by the children of the murdered union leaders, whose complaint included new allegations surrounding the killings. Judge Proctor found that some of the plaintiffs were barred from the new case because their claims were already decided in Drummond's previous Alien Tort Statute trial. And the remaining plaintiffs, he ruled, lacked standing because the ATS does not permit children of victims to seek damages for themselves.The judge did not dismiss a related suit brought by relatives of victims of violence in Columbia. But he didn't let the case proceed, either. Judge Proctor ruled that the plaintiffs' claims were insufficient as pled, but he gave them leave to try again.

Plaintiffs counsel Terry Collingsworth of Conrad & Scherer told The Birmingham News that he would amend the relatives' complaint to satisfy Judge Proctor. "We are going to provide the new level of detail the court requires," he said. He also said he would consider appealing the dismissal of the suit brought by the slain union leaders' children.Collingsworth, who's one of the best-known Alien Tort plaintiffs lawyers in the country, lost an important Eleventh Circuit appeal of ATS claims against Coca-Cola and its bottlers in August. (Here's the report on that ruling.) Drummond defense counsel Jeffress told us the Eleventh Circuit's ruling helped Drummond in the cases before Judge Proctor.