Coca-Cola Co. won a big victory in an Alien Tort Statute case thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. The 11th Circuit dismissed Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co, citing the USSC ruling in Ashcroft v. Iqbal that allowed courts to dismiss cases as a matter of law if plaintiffs' evidence doesn't sufficiently back their pleading.
Over a ten year period trade union leaders were murdered by Colombian paramilitary troops at Coke bottling facilities in Colombia between the mid 1990's and 2001. Though the union members' complaint against Coca-Cola stated that the murderers had acted as state agents (a requirement to hear the case under the Alien Tort Statute) and that their murders were war crimes, the 11th Circuit found too little evidence of such legal conclusions to get to a fact-finder. A fortiori Coke could not be held responsible for private crimes. The members' assertions that war crimes had been committed by state agents were conclusions of law, not fact, and Iqbal now allows courts to remove such cases from jury consideration, thereby also removing much settlement pressure from defendants.
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