Occidental lawsuit (re Colombia)

Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales, haga clic acá.

On 23 April 2003, residents of Santo Domingo, Colombia filed a lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) and its security contractor, Airscan, Inc. in US federal court in California.  The plaintiffs claim that both Oxy and Airscan, in a bid to secure Oxy’s pipeline in Caño Limón, Colombia, helped the Colombian Air Force (CAF) conduct an aerial bombing attack on Santo Domingo on 13 December 1998.  The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit under the Alien Tort Claims Act, Torture Victim Protection Act and various California state laws, and alleged that Occidental was complicit in extrajudicial killing, torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  The lawsuit alleges that Oxy and Airscan provided key strategic information, as well as ground and air support to the CAF in the bombing raid.  The raid led to the deaths of 17 innocent civilians and injured 25 others.  In 2005, Oxy filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds of forum non conveniens, international comity and the political question doctrine.  (More information on these three doctrines is available here.)  The court declined to grant the motion to dismiss on the grounds of forum non conveniens or international comity.  However, the court granted the motion to dismiss based on the political question doctrine.  The plaintiffs subsequently appealed this decision.  US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments on the appeal on 19 April 2007.  It issued a decision on 11 May 2009 remanding the case to the district court to consider the impact of an intervening decision in the lawsuit Sarei v. Rio Tinto.  The district court was instructed to consider whether local remedies need to be exhausted before the case can be brought in US court.  The district court issued its decision in March 2010 stating that the plaintiffs would not need to exhaust local remedies prior to bringing the case in US court, but the court also reiterated that it had found that the plaintiffs' case was precluded by the politcal question doctrine.  In November 2014, the appeals court dismissed the case, finding that the case had insufficient ties to the United States to be heard in US court.  On 14 December 2015, the US Supreme Court declined to hear the victims' appeal to reinstate the lawsuit against Oxy.

In August 2011 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights announced that it would hear a case against Colombia regarding the bombing of Santo Domingo.  On 30 November 2012, the Court ruled in favour of the victims and found that Colombia had violated the right to life of those killed by the bombing, as well as the right to personal integrity of those injured.

- "U.S. Supreme Court rejects human rights suit against Occidental", Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, 14 Dec 2015
- "US court refuses to hold Occidental liable in Colombia bombing", Jonathan Stempel, Reuters, 12 Nov 2014
- "Human rights court to review 3 Colombian cases", Travis Mannon, Colombia Reports, 23 Aug 2011
- [PDF] "Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation: A Case Study of the Role of the Executive Branch in International Human Rights Litigation", Amy Apollo, Rutgers Law Journal, 2006
- "U.S. State Department Intervenes To Protect Occidental Against Lawsuit For Human Rights Crimes", Daniel Kovalik [plaintiffs’ co-counsel], ZNet, 13 Jan 2005
- "Occidental Sued in Human Rights Case", Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times, 25 Apr 2003
- "A Colombian Village Caught in a Cross-Fire", T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, 17 Mar 2002

Occidental Petroleum:
- Occidental Issues Statement Regarding Santo Domingo, Colombia Lawsuit, 24 Apr 2003
International Rights Advocates [plaintiffs co-counsel]: 
- Occidental Petroleum - Case summary
- [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation - Complaint, 23 Apr 2003

US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit:
- [PDF] Mujica v. AirScan & Occidental Petroleum Corporation, 12 Nov 2014
US District Court for the Central District of California:
- [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation - Ruling on limited remand as to the prudential exhaustion issue, 8 Mar 2010
- Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp. - Opinion, 28 Jun 2005 [order denying defendant’s motion to dismiss the action under the doctrines offorum non conveniens and international comity]
US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit:
- [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation, AirScan, Inc. - Order, 11 May 2009

US Department of State:
- [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp. – Brief of United States as Amicus Curiae in Support of Affirmance, 17 Mar 2006
- [PDF] Statement of Intent, 23 Dec 2004

Earthrights International:
- Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp. - Amicus Curiae in support of plaintiffs-appelants' petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc, 20 Jan 2015
- [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp. - Brief of Amicus Curiae Earthrights International in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellants and Reversal, 3 Jan 2006 [brief filed with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the appellants-plaintiffs and reversal]
- Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp.

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

Article
14 December 2015

U.S. Supreme Court rejects human rights suit against Occidental

Author: Lawrence Hurley, Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to revive a human rights lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum Corp and a security contractor that had accused them of complicity in a deadly 1998 bombing by Colombia's military of a village in the South American country. The court left intact a November 2014 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stating that victims' families could not pursue claims against Occidental and Florida-based AirScan Inc under two U.S. human rights laws…Occidental and AirScan were accused of providing the Colombian military with financial and logistical support. Both denied wrongdoing, and Houston-based Occidental has said it did not provide lethal aid. The lower court ruling relied in part on a 2013 Supreme Court decision in which the justices ruled unanimously to make it harder for plaintiffs to sue corporations in U.S. courts for alleged abuses occurring overseas…

Read the full post here

Article
5 December 2014

Access to justice for victims of human rights abuses needs to be strengthened

Author: Sif Thorgeirsson, Manager, Corporate Legal Accountability Project, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

‘Closing the courtroom door: where can victims of human rights abuse by business find justice?’, 1 Dec 2014

…[M]any victims of business-related human rights abuse have no access to judicial remedy in their home country…The majority of cases of abuse we see at Business & Human Rights Resource Centre occur in weak governance zones, which often do not have an independent judiciary, and sometimes lack fully functioning courts…Of the 108 legal cases the Centre has profiled,…[54%] are related to extraterritorial claims…[but t]he effect [of Kiobel] has been a near-freeze on victims seeking justice through this…avenue. At the time of…Kiobel…, there were at least 19 corporate Alien Tort cases pending in US courts.  Since then, only one new…case has been filed…While the scope for remedy from US and English courts is narrowing…there have been three cases filed in Canadian courts addressing extraterritorial business-related human rights abuse...[and]…cases…have been filed in France, Switzerland and Germany…Concerted action is needed by governments and others to reverse the trend toward closing…avenues to justice…[Also refers to Occidental Petroleum, Cisco Systems, Drummond, Chiquita, Rio Tinto,  Daimler, ExxonMobil, Nestle, CACI, L-3 Titan, Nevsun, Hudbay Minerals and Tahoe Resources]

Read the full post here

Article
28 November 2014

Academic explains new limits to human rights litigation after US court dismisses lawsuit against Airscan over alleged complicity in Colombia bomb attack

Author: Roger Alford, Opinio Juris

“The Ninth Circuit’s Muddled Comity Analysis in Mujica”, 21 Nov 2014

Last week the Ninth Circuit issued a controversial opinion in Mujica v. Airscan, Inc., that sharply limits the scope of human rights litigation. The claims in Mujica arose in Colombia and allegedly implicate corporate collusion with the Colombian military…What is extremely surprising is that the court dismissed the state law claims…I fully expected the Ninth Circuit…to apply California choice of law principles to resolve the claim…[meaning the Ninth Circuit] would retain jurisdiction of the state law claims and resolve them under Colombian law…Instead it relied on a novel prudential comity analysis to dismiss the claims...The…decision seems to suggest that [the application of choice-of-law principles following Kiobel]…is…fine for the typical wrongful death claim involving foreign contacts or parties. But if it is a human rights claim…in the guise of a wrongful death claim, then at least two members of the Ninth Circuit will bend over backwards to dismiss it…

Read the full post here

Article
25 November 2014

Standard behind US Court dismissal of Alien Tort case against Occidental & AirScan “sufficiently vague for corporations to hide behind”, says journalist

Author: Siddhartha Mahanta, Foreign Policy (USA)

"Suing companies for atrocities has never been harder. Thanks, Supreme Court!", 18 Nov 2014 [Subscription required]

On Nov. 12 [2014], the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals…ruled…in Mujica v. AirScan that the families of the victims of a…1998, cluster bomb attack on…Santo Domingo, Colombia, could not make claims against two American companies...Occidental Petroleum and AirScan...allegedly complicit in the attack...The Colombian helicopters that bombed Santo Domingo did so to protect the Caño-Limón pipeline, owned by Occidental, according to the plaintiffs. Occidental allegedly provided financial support to the Colombian military, [and gave] it office space to plan the…raid, the plaintiffs said…[I]n Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co...Chief Justice John Roberts...[said]..."even where the claims touch and concern the territory of the United States...they must do so with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application."...Now, that "touch and concern" standard has returned...[Judge] Bybee wrote that the [Alien Tort Statute] didn't apply [in this case] because the…claims…failed to "touch and concern" the [US] with sufficient force...Relying on a standard as ill-defined as touch and concern, it seems, creates language sufficiently vague for corporations to hide behind. [Also refers to Exxon Mobil, Cisco, Shell]

Read the full post here

Article
12 November 2014

Mujica v. AirScan and Occidental Petroleum - Opinion

Author: US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit

We hold that Plaintiffs lack a valid claim under either the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) or the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). We affirm the district court’s judgment of dismissal with respect to Plaintiffs’ state-law claims, but we do so on the ground of international comity. Although the district court rejected dismissal on that ground, we conclude that the district court abused its discretion by applying the incorrect legal standard in its comity analysis, specifically by concluding erroneously that a “true conflict” between domestic and foreign law is required for the application of international comity in all circumstances.

Read the full post here

Article
12 November 2014

U.S. court refuses to hold Occidental liable in Colombia bombing

Author: Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

A divided federal appeals court…refused to hold Occidental Petroleum Corp and a security contractor legally responsible for alleged complicity in a 1998 military bombing of a Colombian village that killed 17 people…The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals…said victims' families could not pursue claims against Occidental and…AirScan Inc under two U.S. human rights laws, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and Torture Victims Protection Act. Writing for a 2-1 majority, Circuit Judge Jay Bybee cited [the]…Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum Co [decision] in finding that the ATS did not apply…U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly…dissented from [the] decision…He said the majority "needlessly announces novel standards that will thwart the ability of not only these plaintiffs, but also of every other alien who seeks to hold a U.S. corporation accountable for atrocities committed abroad."

Read the full post here

Lawsuit
18 February 2014

Occidental lawsuit (re Colombia)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

On 23 April 2003, residents of Santo Domingo, Colombia filed a lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) and its security contractor, Airscan, Inc. in US federal court in California.  The plaintiffs claim that both Oxy and Airscan, in a bid to secure Oxy’s pipeline in Caño Limón, Colombia, helped the Colombian Air Force (CAF) conduct an aerial bombing attack on Santo Domingo on 13 December 1998.  The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit under the Alien Tort Claims Act, Torture Victim Protection Act and various California state laws, and alleged that Occidental was complicit in extrajudicial killing, torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  The lawsuit alleges that Oxy and Airscan provided key strategic information, as well as ground and air support to the CAF in the bombing raid.  The raid led to the deaths of 17 innocent civilians and injured 25 others.  In 2005, Oxy filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds of forum non conveniens, international comity and the political question doctrine.  (More information on these three doctrines is available here.)  The court declined to grant the motion to dismiss on the grounds of forum non conveniens or international comity.  However, the court granted the motion to dismiss based on the political question doctrine.  The plaintiffs subsequently appealed this decision.  US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments on the appeal on 19 April 2007.  It issued a decision on 11 May 2009 remanding the case to the district court to consider the impact of an intervening decision in the lawsuit Sarei v. Rio Tinto.  The district court was instructed to consider whether local remedies need to be exhausted before the case can be brought in US court.  The district court issued its decision in March 2010 stating that the plaintiffs would not need to exhaust local remedies prior to bringing the case in US court, but the court also reiterated that it had found that the plaintiffs' case was precluded by the politcal question doctrine.

In August 2011 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights announced that it would hear a case against Colombia regarding the bombing of Santo Domingo.  

- "Human rights court to review 3 Colombian cases", Travis Mannon, Colombia Reports, 23 Aug 2011
- [PDF] "Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation: A Case Study of the Role of the Executive Branch in International Human Rights Litigation", Amy Apollo, Rutgers Law Journal, 2006

- "U.S. State Department Intervenes To Protect Occidental Against Lawsuit For Human Rights Crimes", Daniel Kovalik [plaintiffs’ co-counsel], ZNet, 13 Jan 2005

- "Occidental Sued in Human Rights Case", Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times, 25 Apr 2003

- "A Colombian Village Caught in a Cross-Fire", T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, 17 Mar 2002

 

- Occidental Petroleum: Occidental Issues Statement Regarding Santo Domingo, Colombia Lawsuit, 24 Apr 2003

- International Rights Advocates [plaintiffs co-counsel]: Occidental Petroleum - Case summary 

 

- US District Court for the Central District of California: [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation - Ruling on limited remand as to the prudential exhaustion issue, 8 Mar 2010
- US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit: [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation, AirScan, Inc. - Order, 11 May 2009
- US Department of State: [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp. – Brief of United States as Amicus Curiae in Support of Affirmance, 17 Mar 2006

- Earthrights International: [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp. - Brief of Amicus Curiae Earthrights International in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellants and Reversal, 3 Jan 2006 [brief filed with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the appellants-plaintiffs and reversal]

- US District Court for the Central District of California: Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corp. - Opinion, 28 Jun 2005 [order denying defendant’s motion to dismiss the action under the doctrines of forum non conveniens and international comity]

- US Department of State: [PDF] Statement of Intent, 23 Dec 2004

- International Rights Advocates [plaintiffs’ co- counsel]: [PDF] Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation - Complaint, 23 Apr 2003

Article
+ Español - Hide

Author: Semana [Colombia]

La Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) informó que el Estado colombiano será juzgado por el bombardeo a Santo Domingo...Allí miembros de la Fuerza Aérea bombardearon el caserío causándole la muerte de 17 personas y heridas a 27 más...La CIDH también pidió investigar los vínculos entre agentes del Estado y la petrolera OXY [Occidental] porque, según el organismo, el explosivo arrojado en la zona habría contado con el apoyo de un avión perteneciente a esa empresa estadounidense.

Read the full post here

Article
18 September 2011

ERI Files Brief Supporting Use of State Law in Human Rights Cases

Author: EarthRights International

ERI filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief this past week in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Galvis Mujica v. Occidental Petroleum… On December 13, 1998, the Colombian military bombed the village of Santo Domingo, guided by an airplane provided by [Occidental Petroleum (Oxy)] and piloted by its security contractor. According to the plaintiffs, Oxy instigated the raid in a meeting with the military at its own offices...

Read the full post here

Article
1 June 2010

[PDF] Think globally, sue locally: Out-of-court tactics employed by plaintiffs, their lawyers, and their advocates in transnational tort cases

Author: Jonathan Drimmer, Steptoe & Johnson, released by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform

Over the past 15 years, there has been a sharp rise in lawsuits brought against United States companies, as well as foreign companies with a substantial U.S. presence, that are premised on alleged personal or environmental injuries that occur overseas...With increasing frequency, plaintiffs, their attorneys, and their advocates are employing aggressive out-of court tactics that approach, straddle, and sometimes cross ethical lines in seeking to gain litigation advantages....The tactics...have clearly demonstrable patterns. Among them are: Aggressive media tactics...Community organizing tactics...Investment tactics...Political tactics...Fraudulent misconduct...[refers to AirScan, Archer Daniels Midland, Bridgestone, Bridgestone-Firestone (part of Bridgestone), Brylane (part of Pinault Printemps-Redoute), Cargill, Chevron, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Daimler, Del Monte Foods, Dole, Dow Chemical, Drummond, ExxonMobil, Gap, Gulf Oil, Levi Strauss, Mercedes-Benz (part of Daimler), Mobil Oil (part of ExxonMobil), Nestlé, Occidental Petroleum, Petroecuador, Pfizer, PPR (formerly Pinault-Printemps-Redoute), Rio Tinto, Shell, Target, Texaco (part of Chevron), Union Carbide (part of Dow), Unocal (part of Chevron), Wal-Mart, Yahoo!]

Read the full post here