Curaçao Drydock Company lawsuit (re forced labour)

In August 2006 three Cuban nationals accused Curaçao Drydock Company of subjecting them to forced labour in a lawsuit in US federal court under the Alien Tort Claims Act and other laws.  They alleged that the company conspired with the Cuban Government to traffic them and other workers to Curaçao to work for Curaçao Drydock Company as part of a forced labour programme.  The workers allegedly worked 16-hour days in dangerous conditions.  The workers were unpaid; instead their compensation was deducted from Cuba’s debt to the company.

Drydock photo by US NavyThe company filed a motion to dismiss on grounds of forum non conveniens (inconvenient forum – information on this legal doctrine available here).  The court denied the company’s motion in February 2008 and held that it had jurisdiction under ATCA, stating that the allegations of forced labour and international human trafficking constituted violations of universal and obligatory norms of international law.

On 30 July 2008 the company’s lawyers notified the court they had been discharged by the company.  The company subsequently failed to communicate with the court.  On 8 August 2008, the court entered a default judgment in favour of the plaintiffs on the issue of liability, holding that the defendant had abandoned the proceedings.  The case went to trial only on the issue of damages.  On 31 October 2008 the court awarded a total of $80 million in damages to the plaintiffs, saying there was “overwhelming and uncontroverted evidence” of the plaintiffs’ claims.  The judgment stated that this amount reflected the severe physical and psychological injuries of the plaintiffs, the defendant’s gross misconduct, the universality of the offense, the gains made by the company from the conduct and the potential deterrent effect it could have on other companies.

In July 2013, the plaintiffs sought to enforce the US judgement against the defendant's assets in Singapore. The court of first instance declared the US court decision enforceable in Singapore, and this was confirmed by the High Court of Singapore in June 2015.

- “US case highlights Cuban 'slaves' in Curaçao”, Colin Woodward, Christian Science Monitor, 18 Nov 2008
- “Cuban trio win suit against Curacao firm”, Frances Robles, Miami Herald, 9 Aug 2008
- “Cuba accused of slavelike labor deal”, Frances Robles, Miami Herald, 28 Oct 2008

US District Court Southern District of Florida Miami Division
- [PDF] Licea, et al. v. Curaçao Drydock Company, 31 Oct 2008 [final judgment on damages]
- [PDF] Licea, et al. v. Curaçao Drydock Company, 8 Aug 2008 [order striking defendant’s answer and entering default judgment]
- [PDF] Licea, et al. v. Curaçao Drydock Company, 22 Feb 2008 [order denying defendant’s motion to dismiss]

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Article
5 June 2015

Singapore: High Court dismisses appeal against enforcement of US judgement in Curaçao Drydock case over forced labour

Author: Herbert Smith Freehills, PIL Notes

"Alien Tort litigation comes to Singapore: international enforcement of judgments based on corporate human rights abuse", 3 Jun 2015

In Alberto Justo Rodriguez Licea and others v Curacao Drydock Co, Inc, the Singapore High Court dismissed an appeal against the enforcement of a multi-million dollar judgment issued in the United States awarding damages to Cuban plaintiffs under the US Alien Tort Statute (ATS)... In October 2008, the US District Court...gave judgment in favour of the plaintiffs, who were awarded...compensatory...and...punitive damages...[I]n July 2013, the plaintiffs commenced enforcement proceedings...in Singapore...The punitive element was dropped...[T]he defendant sought to set aside the Singapore Judgment...[T]he Assistant Recorder...made clear that the forum non conveniens doctrine was an irrelevant consideration...[And] noted that the plaintiffs had not sought to enforce the order to pay punitive damages and that there was no authority to suggest that the entire US Judgment was tainted...[The] Assistant Recorder concluded that neither of the submissions raised triable issues that merited setting aside the Singapore Judgment...The defendant next applied to the Singapore High Court...The appeal was dismissed. In a brief judgment, the High Court agreed with the Assistant Recorder...

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Article
29 October 2012

[PDF] Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin - Issue 7

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

[Full text of October 2012 issue of the Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin. Refers to lawsuits against adidas, Amesys (part of Bull), Anadarko, Anglo Platinum (part of Anglo American), Areva, Blackwater, BP, CACI, Cameron International, Chevron, Copper Mesa Mining, Curacao Drydock, DynCorp, Esmor Correctional Services (part of Correctional Services Corporation), Ford, Global Horizons, Halliburton, L-3, PA Child Care, Paladin, Shell, SNCF, Texaco (part of Chevron), Transocean.]

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Article
11 June 2009

A Win for Wiwa, a Win for Shell, a Win for Corporate Human Rights

Author: Michael Goldhaber, American Lawyer

Late Monday, on the eve of trial in New York, the parties settled in Wiwa v. Shell. For those with longer memories, it was reminiscent of March 2005, when another case hyped as the great breakthrough for corporate human rights, Doe v. Unocal, settled before trial on the merits…Absent a cathartic trial, can a winner be declared?...While the facts in dispute will never be settled, Wiwa has left its mark on law and legal culture -- and in this respect the movement for business human rights is the big winner. [also refers to Chevron, Curacao Drydock, Esmor Correctional Services, Drummond, Gap, Yahoo!]

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Article
+ Español - Hide

Author: EFE

Un juez de EE.UU. dictaminó hoy que un astillero de Curazao debe indemnizar con 80 millones de dólares a tres cubanos que alegaron fueron enviados por Cuba para trabajar en la reparación de barcos y plataformas marinas bajo condiciones "inhumanas y degradantes"...El magistrado...fijó el monto que la Curacao Drydock Company debe pagar a los cubanos Alberto Justo Rodríguez Licea, Fernando Alonso Hernández y Luis Alberto Casanova Toledo..."Esperamos que la decisión histórica de hoy signifique que ningún trabajador cubano tendrá que sufrir jamás la humillación y el tratamiento inhumano que nosotros experimentamos...", declaró Rodríguez...El Gobierno cubano, según los abogados y los dos grupos, presuntamente "traficaba enviando (a sus) ciudadanos a trabajar para la Curacao Drydock Company...con el fin de contribuir a pagar las deudas de Cuba con la empresa".

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Article
20 October 2008

Slave-labor case nets $80 million [USA]

Author: Frances Robles, Miami Herald

Three Cuban men forced to work…repairing ships for a Cuban joint venture in Curacao won an $80 million judgment Monday in U.S. federal court in Miami…. Cuban nationals who now live in Tampa…sued the Curacao Drydock Co., alleging the company conspired with the Cuban government to force them into virtual slave labor. Lawyers called the deal a ''Faustian bargain'' hatched so the Cuban government could pay off its debt with Curacao Drydock by providing free labor…. The men won their lawsuit in August, after attorneys for Curacao Drydock quit the case and the company failed to show up for any further hearings.

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Article
28 October 2006

Lawsuit claims Cuba forced citizens to work at Curacao shipyard

Author: AP

Alberto Rodriguez...[was]...told...he was being sent to work at a shipyard on Curacao. Over the next three years, Rodriguez claims he and dozens of other men were held as virtual slaves, forced to work long hours for pennies a day in dangerous conditions...Now, Rodriguez and...two other[s]...have filed a federal lawsuit in Miami seeking unspecified damages from the Curacao Drydock Company Inc. for what they claim was a conspiracy in which Cuba provided low-cost, forced labor in return for hard currency..."Curacao Drydock Co. knew that the Cuban laborers that the Cuban government provided to it were not free individuals but...were compelled to perform the will of the Cuban state," said their lawsuit...In a written statement...Curacao Drydock said it strives to "maintain the highest achievable standards of safety work habits"...that all personnel are trained in safety policies [and that]...many of the lawsuit's allegations were focused on Cuba and not the company.

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Lawsuit
13 March 2002

Curaçao Drydock Company lawsuit (re forced labour)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In August 2006 three Cuban nationals accused Curaçao Drydock Company of subjecting them to forced labour in a lawsuit in US federal court under the Alien Tort Claims Act and other laws.  They alleged that the company conspired with the Cuban Government to traffic them and other workers to Curaçao to work for Curaçao Drydock Company as part of a forced labour programme.  The workers allegedly worked 16-hour days in dangerous conditions.  The workers were unpaid; instead their compensation was deducted from Cuba’s debt to the company.

The company filed a motion to dismiss on grounds of forum non conveniens (inconvenient forum – information on this legal doctrine available here).  The court denied the company’s motion in February 2008 and held that it had jurisdiction under ATCA, stating that the allegations of forced labour and international human trafficking constituted violations of universal and obligatory norms of international law.

On 30 July 2008 the company’s lawyers notified the court they had been discharged by the company.  The company subsequently failed to communicate with the court.  On 8 August 2008, the court entered a default judgment in favour of the plaintiffs on the issue of liability, holding that the defendant had abandoned the proceedings.  The case went to trial only on the issue of damages.  On 31 October 2008 the court awarded a total of $80 million in damages to the plaintiffs, saying there was “overwhelming and uncontroverted evidence” of the plaintiffs’ claims.  The judgment stated that this amount reflected the severe physical and psychological injuries of the plaintiffs, the defendant’s gross misconduct, the universality of the offense, the gains made by the company from the conduct and the potential deterrent effect it could have on other companies.

- “US case highlights Cuban 'slaves' in Curaçao”, Colin Woodward, Christian Science Monitor, 18 Nov 2008
- “Cuban trio win suit against Curacao firm”, Frances Robles, Miami Herald, 9 Aug 2008
- “Cuba accused of slavelike labor deal”, Frances Robles, Miami Herald, 28 Oct 2008

US District Court Southern District of Florida Miami Division
- [PDF] Licea, et al. v. Curaçao Drydock Company, 31 Oct 2008 [final judgment on damages]
- [PDF] Licea, et al. v. Curaçao Drydock Company, 8 Aug 2008 [order striking defendant’s answer and entering default judgment]
- [PDF] Licea, et al. v. Curaçao Drydock Company, 22 Feb 2008 [order denying defendant’s motion to dismiss]