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Searcy Law Announces $38 Million Verdict for Victims of Chiquita-Funded Paramilitaries

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Historic Decision After 17-Year Legal Battle: U.S. Corporation Held Accountable for Human Rights Abuses Abroad

After a grueling 17-year legal battle, an American jury has, for the first time, held a major U.S. corporation accountable for complicity in severe human rights abuses abroad. In a landmark decision, the surviving family members of 8 victims of narco-terrorist violence in Colombia were awarded a total of $38 million. Their claims against Chiquita Brands International,Inc. were based on cash payments and other forms of support provided in Colombia by the U.S. banana company to federally designated terrorist organizations. Chiquita’s support violated both U.S. and Colombian law, and Chiquita’s claim that it was forced to support the terrorists because it was itself the victim of extortion was a defense expressly rejected by the jury. 

Attorneys Jack Scarola, Mariano Garcia, and Victoria Mesa-Estrada led a team of law firms from around the country in prosecuting the first representative group of over 5,000 Colombian victims in this historic proceeding. Additional trials on behalf of other victims will follow beginning in July. The verdict sends a powerful message: corporations will be held accountable when business decisions prioritize profits over human lives. 

Commenting on these proceedings, Scarola said, “Only when the cost of doing business includes the reasonable value of making sure business is done ethically and responsibly will corporate behavior change. Together, we can push for a world where justice prevails and human rights are respected everywhere.” 

“This verdict is a monumental step toward corporate accountability and human rights. It sets a precedent that no corporation, regardless of its size or influence, is above the law when it comes to complicity in atrocities,” said Mariano Garcia. Victoria Mesa-Estrada added, “Significant verdicts like this have the potential to change corporate behavior. It’s a wake-up call for businesses worldwide to re-evaluate their operations and ensure they are not even indirectly supporting violence or human rights abuses. This decision not only brings justice to the victims but also honors the memory of those who suffered and died because of corporate greed.

The victims, whose lives were devastated by the paramilitary violence, have finally seen a measure of justice. This verdict underscores the critical role of the legal system in upholding human rights and providing recourse for those affected by corporate misconduct. Our firm remains committed to fighting for justice and holding corporations accountable for their actions. Together, we can create a world where human rights are upheld, and justice is served.

Other key members of the prosecution team included

James K. Green of James K. Green PA, Rick Herz, Maryum Jordan, Marissa Vahlsing and Marco Simons of EarthRights International, William J. Wichmann of the Law Offices of William J. Wichmann PA, William R. Scherer and Erik Hager of Conrad & Scherer LLP, Agnieszka Fryszman and Leslie M. Kroeger of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Jonathan C. Reiter of theJonathan C. Reiter Law Firm PLLC, Terry Collingsworth of International Rights Advocates, and Gabriela Paola Valentin Diaz. 

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