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Corrie family seeks reinstatement of case against Caterpillar

Gene Johnson Associated Press

SEATTLE – The family of a woman killed trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in 2003 asked a federal appeals court panel Monday to reinstate its lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc., saying the company knew bulldozers it sold to the Israeli government were being used to commit human rights violations.

“Caterpillar sold this product knowing – or it should have known – it would cause exactly this harm,” one of the family’s lawyers, well-known Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, told the three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old peace activist from Olympia, was crushed by a 60-ton Israeli bulldozer as she stood before a Palestinian home in the Gaza Strip. Her parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, sued Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar, which manufactured the bulldozer, seeking to hold the company civilly liable for aiding and abetting human rights violations – the destruction of civilian homes.

Four Palestinian families whose relatives were killed or injured when the Israeli Defense Forces flattened their homes joined the Corries in filing suit.

A U.S. District Court judge in Tacoma dismissed the lawsuit in 2005, agreeing with the company’s argument that it wasn’t responsible for how the Israeli army used its product. The family’s request to have the case reinstated drew dozens of protesters to the courthouse, some carrying black silhouettes of Corrie and others holding a painting of a diminutive figure standing before an oncoming bulldozer.

Chemerinsky insisted that the judge applied the wrong legal standard and that as long as the company knew how the bulldozers were being used, it can be held liable under common law dating back centuries.

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