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Corrie et al. v. Caterpillar

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Synopsis

Corrie v. Caterpillar is a federal lawsuit filed against Illinois-based Caterpillar, Inc. on behalf of the parents of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American peace activist and student who was run over and killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer in Palestine on March 16, 2003, and on behalf of Palestinian families whose family members were killed or injured when bulldozers demolished their homes on top of them.

Status

On September 17, 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of CCR’s case charging Caterpillar, Inc. The decision from a three-judge panel found that the Court did not have jurisdiction to decide the case because adjudication would intrude upon the political branches’ foreign policy decisions. Plaintiffs filed a petition for panel rehearing or rehearing en banc on October 9, 2007. Plaintiffs’ petition was denied on January 12, 2009.

The case that Rachel Corrie’s parents brought against Israel in March 2005 began trial in the Haifa District Court in Israel on March 10, 2010. The district court issued its verdict in August 2012, finding Israel not responsible for Rachel's death.  The Israel Supreme Court is hearing the appeal on May 21, 2014. Follow the trial at the Rachel Corrie Foundation website: rachelcorriefoundation.org. Read a statement by human rights organization calling for accountability in Rachel's case. To take action and demand justice and accountability for Gaza and throughout Palestine/Israel, visit CCR's Rachel Corrie Day of Action page

CCR attorney Katherine Gallagher attended the Corrie trial in Haifa in October 2010, when the bulldozer driver who killed Rachel testified.  Her blogs on the trial are available here and here, and here is her blog on the appeal.

Description

Corrie v. Caterpillar is a federal lawsuit brought against Illinois-based Caterpillar, Inc. The suit charges Caterpillar, Inc. with aiding and abetting war crimes and other serious human rights violations on the grounds that the company provided bulldozers to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) knowing they would be used unlawfully to demolish homes and endanger civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

It charges Caterpillar, Inc. with violations of state, federal, and international law for complicity in war crimes, extrajudicial killing and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. The international law-based claims were brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). Additionally, the suit charges Caterpillar with violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, wrongful death, public nuisance, and negligence. The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Caterpillar has provided bulldozers to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), knowing they would be used to unlawfully destroy civilian homes. The IDF has used Caterpillar bulldozers to destroy thousands of Palestinian homes, leaving thousands of individuals homeless in the process. The Caterpillar D9 bulldozer is more than 13 feet tall and 26 feet wide, weighs more than 60 tons with its armored plating, and can raze houses in a matter of minutes.

Much of the world community, including international human rights organizations and the United Nations, has consistently condemned these demolitions as a clear violation of international humanitarian law. For years, Caterpillar has had notice that the IDF was using its bulldozers for human rights violations, yet has continued to provide them.

The case was brought by the parents of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American peace activist and college student who was run over and killed by a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer on March 16, 2003 as she was trying to protect a home from being demolished while the family was inside. The other plaintiffs include four Palestinians families – the Al Sho’bis, the Abu Husseins, the Fayeds, and the Khalafallahs - whose homes were destroyed and members killed by Caterpillar bulldozers used by the IDF.

This suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and an injunctive order directing Caterpillar to cease its participation in the provision of equipment and services to the Israel Defense Forces.

Timeline

  • March 15, 2005: CCR, with the Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic at Seattle University School of Law, the Public Interest Law Group PLLC in Seattle, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, filed Corrie v. Caterpillar in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle on behalf of the parents of Rachel Corrie.
  • May 2, 2005: Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint to include four Palestinian familes as plaintiffs.
  • May 25, 2005: Defendant filed a motion to dismiss.
  • October 17, 2005: Plaintiffs filed their brief opposing the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
  • November 22, 2005: District Court Judge Franklin Burgess dismissed the case. In the decision, Judge Burgess held, inter alia, that Caterpillar was not a “state actor”; that no provision of federal law allows the plaintiffs to sue for violations of international law; that claims under the ATS may not be brought by the family of Rachel Corrie because they are not aliens; and that selling products to a foreign government does not make the seller a participant in that government’s alleged international law violations.
  • March 20, 2006: Plaintiffs appealed the District Court’s dismissal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Plaintiffs argued that the district court applied an incorrect legal standard to many of the Plaintiffs' claims and failed to address several of their arguments.
  • March 2006: Amicus briefs filed on issues including the scope of the TVPA; the political question doctrine; aiding and abetting, and liability for corporations; and the scope, elements and application of the prohibition on destruction of civilian property not justified by military necessity for purposes of establishing jurisdiction under the ATS.
  • June 6, 2006: Defendant Caterpillar filed its brief on appeal.
  • August 11, 2006: United States files an amicus brief on appeal, urging affirmance of the dismissal.
  • August 31, 2006: Plaintiffs filed their reply brief.
  • July 9, 2007: Oral arguments were heard by Judges Arthur Alarcon, Michael Hawkins and Kim Wardlaw of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Seattle, WA.
  • September 17, 2007: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of Corrie v. Caterpillar. It found that it did not have jurisdiction to decide the case and would intrude upon the executive branch’s foreign policy decisions.
  • October 9, 2007: Plaintiffs filed a petition for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc.
  • January 12, 2009: Plaintiffs’ petition for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc was denied.