Verdict against Chilean Dictator's Operative Affirmed upon Appeal

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Attorneys Argue Precedent-Setting Pro Bono Case

On March 14, 2005, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the $4 million verdict awarded by a Miami jury to family members of a victim of a 1973 Chilean death squad known as "the Caravan of Death." Family members of Winston Cabello brought suit against a Miami resident, Armando Fernandez-Larios, for Fernandez's role in torturing and killing Cabello, then a 28-year-old economist, just after General Pinochet seized control of Chile in 1973. In October 2003, a Miami jury found Fernandez liable for murder, torture, and inflicting cruel and degrading treatment—and, for the first time ever in a United States court, committing a crime against humanity. Sitting in Atlanta, Georgia, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected all challenges to that verdict. Click here to read the opinion.

Acting on a pro bono basis, litigator Leo Cunningham led the team of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati attorneys who tried the case and argued the appeal for the Cabello family, along with attorney Robert Kerrigan of Pensacola, Florida, and the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability. Cunningham said that the 28-page ruling from the Court of Appeals was a victory not just for the Cabello family, but for all victims of human-rights abuses. He also noted that the appellate ruling demonstrated that co-conspirators and those who aid and abet brutal dictators also can be held liable for the atrocities in which they participate. "We wanted this case to send the message that torturers are not welcome in this country, and yesterday's ruling makes it clear that anyone who actively participates in torture, whether or not they personally pull the trigger or wield the blade that does the damage, can be forced to pay for the injuries they help cause," Cunningham said.

This landmark case is an example of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati's pro bono commitment, for which the firm has earned the California State Bar's Pro Bono Service Award (large firm category) and the Bar Association of San Francisco's Outstanding Law Firm in Public Service Award.