Drummond sues lawyer over Colombian claims

The Alabama-based Drummond Co. filed a federal defamation lawsuit against a Washington labor lawyer who has campaigned publicly and in court for years trying to link its Colombia coal-mining operations to paramilitary violence in the South American country.

Drummond sued Terry Collingsworth, who has twice sued Drummond over claims it was involved in the killings of union members a decade ago and other corruption in Colombia.

The suit contends Collingsworth has a financial relationship with a Dutch company, Llanos Oil Exploration, which is suing Drummond over mineral rights. Drummond argued that Collingsworth repeatedly made false claims about its involvement in killings and other paramilitary violence in Colombia, and it asked a court to make him pay an unspecified amount.

Collingsworth, whose law firm of Conrad and Scherer also is named in the suit, did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday, and he hasn’t filed a written response.

The lawsuit was filed last Friday. The complaint includes claims that Collingsworth wrote letters that are now available on the Internet linking Drummond to Colombian violence.

Ruling in a lawsuit Collingsworth filed on behalf of the widows of slain Colombian miners, a federal jury decided in 2007 that Drummond and the head of its Colombian operations was not to blame for the killings of three union leaders, including one who was pulled off a company bus and shot to death as co-workers watched. Drummond attorneys denied the company had any role in the killings or ties to paramilitaries, arguing instead that the slayings were part of years of violence in Colombia.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals resurrected the complaint in February, ruling that the children of the slain workers could sue in the United States. A lower court had dismissed the children’s lawsuit, saying they should have sued on behalf of their parents instead of own their own.

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