A Federal judge in Florida said Friday that a lawsuit filed against banana company Chiquita by 4,000 family members of Colombians killed by paramilitaries is allowed to move forward.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled against the request for dismissal filed by Chiquita that had argued it was a victim of extortion by the paramilitary group AUC and had nothing to do with the crimes committed by the paramilitary AUC that received millions of dollars of the U.S. banana company.
The family members can now move forward with claims for damages against the company for torture and crimes against humanity. The judge did grant Chiquita that claims for damages related to terrorism were dropped.
“While the court allowed some claims to move forward, it is important to understand that at this stage of the proceedings, the court is required by law to treat plaintiffs’ outrageous and false allegations as if they were true. Plaintiffs now have the burden of proving these allegations,” Chiquita spokesman Ed Loyd said in a statement.
“Chiquita will vigorously defend itself against these false allegations and meritless claims,” he said.
The mass lawsuit had already been announced by attorney Paul Wolf in March, who is representing over 2,000 of the cases.
“A company that pays a terrorist organization that kills thousands of people should get the capital punishment of civil liability and be put out of business by punitive damages,” attorney Terry Collingsworth told AP earlier this week.
Chiquita has long denied responsibility for the murders, claiming that the company was itself a victim of extortion by both the FARC and then the right-wing paramilitaries. However, the banana company was fined $25 million as part of a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, but never compensated the victims of the violence.