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Running a multinational company presents many challenges, including facing political strife in countries where companies operate. While rebellions, civil wars, and terror groups disrupt daily life for inhabitants and the business operations of the companies that employ them, it is never a good idea to align oneself with or tacitly endorse paramilitary force. Chiquita Brands faced civil liability for actions of the United Fruit Company. In 2014, Chiquita bought United Fruit Company which was accused of meddling in political and military power. Forbes reports that Chiquita Brands was found liable at the U.S. trial court level for funding a terrorist organization in Colombia and contributing to the deaths of eight civilians. The article states:

“June 10, 2024 marked a groundbreaking moment in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida as a unanimous jury delivered a verdict holding banana giant, Chiquita Brands International, Inc., liable to pay $38.3 million in damages to the families of eight farmers and civilians brutally murdered in Colombia by the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), also known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, between 1997 and 2004. The case represents a monumental win, following 17 years of litigation that originally began in 2007.”

Chiquita unsuccessfully argued that financial contributions to AUC were made under duress, a claim rejected by the jury and the plaintiffs which demonstrated evidence that Chiquita was working in conjunction with the AUC. The ruling is the first time a US corporation has been held responsible for human rights abuses abroad by a US jury. Chiquita is certain to appeal the judgment. However, the ruling is a message to companies everywhere that foreign operations are still subject to the rule of law.

Our members can find more information on civil litigation in the US and abroad here.

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile