MIAMI – APRIL 28, 2020 – Wicker Smith O’Hara McCoy & Ford, P.A.’s Brandon Hechtman, representing Fogo Charcoal, seeks dismissal with prejudice in a revised lawsuit alleging trafficked property under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, arguing that the Plaintiff failed to correct issues from the original complaint. The case was previously tossed by a Florida federal judge in March after finding the complaint did not adequately state a claim of ownership in the claim or that the Defendant knowingly and intentionally marketed the charcoal from a particular Cuban farmland.
The case follows President Trump’s 2019 authorization of the 1996 Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which allows for the recovery of civil damages for trafficking in property confiscated in the Cuban Revolution by the Castro Regime.
Fogo Charcoal is a local Florida entrepreneur and charcoal retailer. They specialize in the sale of long-branch charcoal found in South America and briefly imported materials from Cuba between the years of 2017 and 2019 to produce marabú charcoal, which is derived from an invasive weed on the island. The Plaintiff, a grandson of a Cuban American farm owner, claims the marabú charcoal belongs to him under the Helms-Burton Act. This is a case of first impression that could set the standard for how the Courts interpret “trafficking in confiscated property” and who is liable for such actions.
“The opening of civil lawsuits by President Trump under the Helms Burton Act has opened new and uncertain potential exposure to companies lawfully doing business in Cuba,” said Brandon Hechtman of Wicker Smith’s Miami office.
Judge Scola’s recent decision, however, makes it clear that the Plaintiff has relatively exacting requirements to move forward. In particular, a Plaintiff has to plausibly explain, with facts, how the Plaintiff acquired ownership interest in the “confiscated property” on or before March 12, 1996 and how the business was knowingly transacting in the “confiscated property.” The amended complaint in this case should, again, be found to fall short and hopefully bring a conclusion to this case for the Defendant.
The developing case is catching national attention as hundreds of millions of dollars of potential Helms-Burton Act claims, certified by the U.S. Secretary of State and not, are filed in federal courts, primarily in the Southern District of Florida. Developments have been published on Univision.com and Law360.com.