ATS and common law claims have been brought against DaimlerChrysler AG on behalf of individuals forcibly disappeared and presumed murdered, forcibly exiled, or kidnapped and tortured because of their efforts to organize labor at the Mercedes Benz Argentina plant.
In 1976, the Argentinian military overthrew the democratically elected President, Isabel Peron, and set up a military junta, which governed Argentina until 1983. During this period of military rule, approximately 30,000 individuals were kidnapped, tortured and disappeared by the military and police forces. A disproportionate number of these disappeared were blue collar workers with trade union affiliations.
During the first year of this “Dirty War,” DaimlerChrysler AG maintained close ties with high-ranking members of the military and police forces. In particular, plaintiffs allege that DaimlerChrysler AG identified to the military and police individuals it considered “subversive,” including leaders and supporters of organized labor at the Mercedez Benz Argentina plant. One by one, the labor activists were kidnapped, detained, tortured, disappeared and presumed murdered, or forced into exile.
The plaintiffs in this litigation are surviving relatives of those who were disappeared, or individuals who were themselves kidnapped, detained and tortured. They have sued DaimlerChrysler AG for violations of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and common law. The suit was originally filed in January 2004. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, which the District Court for the Northern District of California granted. Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal, and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. Defendants filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court on the personal jurisdiction issue, which was granted in April 2013. On October 15, 2013, the Supreme Court oral argument was held and, on January 14, 2014, the Court ruled against our favor, holding that Daimler could not be sued for injuries allegedly caused by their Argentinian subsidiary and when the conduct took place outside of the United States. Although a disappointing result for the Bauman plaintiffs, we will continue to work with the victims to find alternative avenues for justice. We are optimistic that ongoing litigation in the D.C., Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits will have more positive results.
- Conrad & Scherer LLP