In a 34-page ruling (pdf) that one defense lawyer describes as “a sweeping review of the Alien Tort Statute,” a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Miami federal district court’s dismissal of four cases claiming that Coca-Cola and its two Colombian bottling subsidiaries were liable for the murder and torture of trade unionists by Colombian paramilitary forces. Citing the Supreme Court’s now-infamous May 2009 ruling in Ashcroft v. Iqbal (pdf), the court concluded that the plaintiffs’ complaints “fail to sufficiently plead factual allegations” to establish subject matter jurisdiction and state a valid claim.

The plaintiffs, represented by veteran Alien Tort Claims lawyer Terry Collingsworth of Conrad & Scherer, alleged in four lawsuits that two Coca-Cola bottlers, Panamco and Bebidas, collaborated with paramilitary forces in what the 11th Circuit called “the systematic intimidation, kidnapping, detention, torture, and murder of Colombian trade unionists.” The complaints didn’t accuse Coke or its bottlers of direct responsibility for the crimes, but sought compensation under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victims Protection Act for the corporations’ alleged aiding and abetting of the paramilitary forces.