Sunday, June 24, 2018

A. Parties

1. Plaintiffs

Beginning in 2002, a number of lawsuits were filed by descendants of slaves seeking reparations from private corporations that were alleged to have unjustly profited from the institution of slavery. On October 25, 2002, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred these actions to this court for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407. See In re African–American Slave Descendants Litigation, 231 F.Supp.2d 1357 (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit.2002). This litigation then consisted of nine individual lawsuits. As directed by the court, the individual Plaintiffs filed a consolidated complaint, which, upon later review, the court dismissed without prejudice. The court held that the Plaintiffs had failed to state a cause of action, had no standing to bring the suit, and that the suit was barred by the *737 political question doctrine and statutes of limitations. See In re African–American Slave Descendants Litigation, 304 F.Supp.2d 1027 (N.D.Ill.2004). The court then granted Plaintiffs leave to file a second amended complaint. Plaintiffs have since filed their Second Consolidated and Amended Complaint, which also consists of nine individual suits. See SCAC.3 The Plaintiffs in the SCAC include the following: Deadria Farmer–Paellmann,4 Mary Lacey Madison,5 Andre Carrington,6 John Bankhead, as administrator of the Estate of Edlee Bankhead,7 Richard Barber, Sr.,8 Hannah Hurdle–Toomey, as administrator of the Estate of Andrew Jackson Hurdle,9 Marcelle Porter, as administrator of the Estate of Hettie Pierce,10 Julie Mae Wyatt–Kervin,11 the Estate of Emma Marie Clark,12 Ina Bell Daniels Hurdle McGee,13 Cain Wall Sr., and seven other individuals who assert they were formerly enslaved,14 and Antoinette Harrell Miller.15 These named Plaintiffs (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Plaintiffs”), on behalf of themselves and the classes they seek to represent,16 seek reparations on behalf of all “formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants,” and all living “former enslaved African–Americans and their descendants....” See SCAC, ¶ 48. Specifically, Plaintiffs seek an accounting, disgorgement of profits, the creation of an “independent historical commission” to study Defendants' actions, a constructive trust, restitution, and compensatory and punitive damages arising out of the named Defendants' alleged past and continued wrongful conduct relating to the institution of slavery.See id. ¶ 3.

 

2. Defendants

The named Defendants (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Defendants”) are seventeen present-day companies whose predecessors are alleged to have been unjustly enriched through profits earned either directly or indirectly from the Trans–Atlantic Slave Trade and slavery between 1619 and 1865, as well as post-Emancipation slavery.

Defendants include the following companies: FleetBoston Financial Corporation, CSX Corporation, Aetna Inc., Brown Brothers Harriman & Company, New York Life Insurance Company, Norfolk Southern Corporation, Lehman Brothers Corporation, Lloyd's of London, Union Pacific Railroad, JP Morgan Chase, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Brown and Williamson, Liggett Group Inc., Canadian National Railway, Southern Mutual Insurance Company, American International Group (“AIG”), and Loews Corporation.17

Plaintiffs allege that FleetBoston, through its predecessor bank, made loans to slave traders and also collected custom duties and fees on ships engaged in the slave trade. See id. ¶¶ 125–26. Plaintiffs further allege that “FleetBoston engaged in a self-concealed business enterprise so that the Plaintiffs and others similarly situated would not be aware of the existence of this enterprise,” and, in more recent times, “made various misleading statements to the Press from March 2000 to February 2002, attempting to disassociate its predecessor company from its current company.” Id. ¶ 128.

Plaintiffs allege that CSX “is a successor-in-interest to numerous predecessor railroad lines that were constructed or run, at least in part, by slave labor.” Id. ¶ 129. Plaintiffs further allege that “CSX engaged in a self-concealed business enterprise as the plaintiffs and others similarly situated would not be aware of the existence of this enterprise,” and, in more recent times, “withheld information or made a misleading statement to the Press regarding their participation in and profiting from slavery.” Id. ¶¶ 131–33.

Plaintiffs allege that “Aetna's predecessor in interest, provided the instrumentality of slavery by underwriting insurance policies for slave owners against the loss of their African slaves....” Id. ¶ 136. Plaintiffs further allege that “Aetna engaged in a self-concealed business enterprise as the plaintiff class and/or plaintiff ancestors would not be aware of the existence of this enterprise ....” and, in more recent times, “withheld information or made a misleading statement regarding their participation in and profiting from slavery.” Id. ¶¶ 142–43.

Plaintiffs allege that Brown Brothers Harriman “is the successor corporation to Brown Brothers & Co.,” which “loaned millions directly to planters, merchants and cotton brokers throughout the South.” Id. ¶¶ 145–46. Plaintiffs also allege that “Louisiana court records dating back to the 1840's ... reveal the firm's ownership of at least two cotton plantations totaling 4,614 acres and the plantations' 346 slaves....” Id. ¶ 148. Plaintiffs further allege that “Brown Brothers Harriman engaged in a self-concealed business enterprise as the plaintiff class and/or plaintiff ancestors would not be aware of the existence of this enterprise ....” and, in more recent times, “withheld information or made a misleading statement based on press reports in an attempt to disassociate itself from its predecessor's business.” Id. ¶¶ 151–52.

Plaintiffs allege that “New York Life's predecessor-in-interest, Nautilus Insurance, earned premiums from its sale of life insurance to slave owners.”Id. ¶ 155. Plaintiffs further allege that “New York Life engaged in a self-concealed business enterprise as the plaintiff class and/or plaintiff ancestors would not be aware of the existence of this enterprise ....” and, in more recent times, “withheld information or made misleading statements regarding their participation in and profiting from slavery.” Id. ¶¶ 159, 162.

Plaintiffs allege that Norfolk Southern “is a successor-in-interest to numerous railroad lines that were constructed or run, in part, by slave labor.” Id. ¶ 163. Plaintiffs further allege that Norfolk “participated in the institution of slavery in that it derived the benefits of unpaid slave labor and it provided financial supports to slave owners and slave traders.” Id. ¶ 165.

Plaintiffs allege that the founder of Lehman Brothers, Henry Lehman, and his brothers “grew rich as middlemen in the slave-grown cotton trade.” Id. ¶ 168. Plaintiffs further allege that Lehman Brothers owned slaves. Id. ¶ 171.

Plaintiffs allege that Lloyd's of London “insured ships utilized for the Trans–Atlantic slave trade.” Id. ¶ 173. Plaintiffs further allege that “Lloyd's engaged in a self-concealed business enterprise as the plaintiff class and/or plaintiffs' ancestors would not be aware of the existence of this enterprise....” Id. ¶ 174.

Plaintiffs allege that Union Pacific “is a successor-in-interest to numerous predecessor railroad lines that were constructed or run in part by slave labor.” Id. ¶ 177. Plaintiffs further allege that “Union Pacific engaged in a self-concealed business enterprise as the plaintiff class and/or plaintiffs' ancestors would not be aware of the existence of this enterprise ....” and, in more recent times, “withheld information or made a misleading statement regarding their participation in profiting from slavery.” Id. ¶¶ 178–79.

Plaintiffs allege that “two of [the] predecessor banks that merged to become J.P. Morgan Chase were behind a consortium to raise money to insure slavery.” Id. ¶ 181. Plaintiffs further allege that “J.P. Morgan Chase engaged in a self-concealed business enterprise as the plaintiff class and/or plaintiffs' ancestors would not be aware of the existence of this enterprise,” and, in more recent times, “withheld information or made a misleading statement regarding their participation in and profiting from slavery.” Id. ¶ 182.

Plaintiffs allege that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Brown & Williamson, Liggett Group, and Loews Corporation (parent company of Lorillard Tobacco Company) were all once part of the American Tobacco Company. Id. ¶ 197. As parts of this larger enterprise, Plaintiffs assert, these Defendants are “all beneficiar[ies] of assets acquired through the forced and uncompensated labors of enslaved African–Americans.” Id. ¶ 185; see also id. ¶¶ 201, 204, and 210.

Plaintiffs allege that Canadian National Railway “is the successor-in-interest to seven predecessor railroad lines, that were constructed and/or run in part by slave labor.” Id. ¶ 213. Plaintiffs further allege that “Canadian National engaged in a self-concealed business enterprise as the plaintiff class and/or plaintiff ancestors would not be aware of the existence of this enterprise....” Id. ¶ 215.

Plaintiffs allege that Southern Mutual Insurance “issued policies on the lives of slaves in Louisiana.” Id. ¶ 219. Plaintiff further alleges that Southern Mutual “aided and abetted those who engaged in the maintenance of slavery through the intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Id. ¶ 218.

*Plaintiffs allege that AIG's predecessors “provided instrumentalities of slavery by selling insurance policy [sic] to cover the lives of enslaved Africans with slave owners as beneficiaries.” Id. ¶ 221. Plaintiffs further allege that AIG's predecessors “aided and abetted those who engaged in the maintenance of slavery.” Id. ¶ 223.

As evidenced by Plaintiffs' allegations, and as the court shall further discuss, their SCAC is devoid of any allegations that connect the specifically named Defendants or their predecessors and any of the Plaintiffs or their ancestors.

 

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