Cardona v. Chiquita Brands Int’l, Inc., No. 12-14898, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 14217 (11th Cir. 2014) [click for opinion]

Several thousand Colombian nationals sued U.S.-based Chiquita Brands International, Inc. and Chiquita Fresh North LLC in federal court in Florida under the Torture Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”) and the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”). Plaintiffs alleged that Chiquita's corporate officers, from their U.S. offices, approved payments and weapons transfers to Colombian terrorists, who used the money and weapons to commit extrajudicial killings and other war crimes in Colombia.

The district court certified for interlocutory review four questions of law. The questions related to the pleading standards applicable to ATS and TVPA claims. The Eleventh Circuit refused to answer the certified questions on the grounds that neither it nor the district court had jurisdiction over the action. The Eleventh Circuit first dismissed the TVPA claims on the basis of the Supreme Court’s decision in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, 132 S. Ct. 1702 (2012), which limited the application of TVPA claims to “natural persons” and thus could not apply to the corporate defendants.

The Eleventh Circuit then addressed the ATS claims. During the pendency of the appeal, the Supreme Court decided Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 133 S. Ct. 1659 (2013). There, the Supreme Court concluded that the presumption against extraterritoriality applies to claims under the ATS and that “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.”

The Eleventh Circuit emphasized that Plaintiffs’ allegations of torture were limited to the territory of Colombia. Chiquita's status as U.S. corporations was not sufficient to overcome the presumption against extra-territorial application of the ATS.

For these reasons, the Eleventh Circuit remanded the case for dismissal.