Ecuadorian Court Upholds $9 Billion Judgment Against Chevron
Meanwhile NY judge and Chevron team up to intimidate witnesses and lawyers in desperate retaliatory lawsuit
- November 13, 2013
- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Quito, Ecuador – In a major setback for Chevron, the Ecuadorian National Court issued its long-awaited decision in favor of a $9 billion pollution judgment against Chevron upholding and affirming lower court rulings. The court's decision is final.
In its 222-page opinion, the supreme court affirmed earlier decisions by a Lago Agrio court and the appellate court for $9 billion but rejected the additional $9 billion in punitive damages previously imposed for not apologizing, given that provision is not explicitly permitted in Ecuadorian law. The supreme court also lamented the plaintiffs waiting 20 years for justice and attributed this largely to delaying tactics by Chevron. This ruling constitutes a landmark case for corporate responsibility.
"This is an extraordinary, unprecedented triumph for indigenous and local communities over one of the world's worst polluters," said Donald Moncayo, a representative from the Amazon Defense Coalition for 30,000 Ecuadorian rainforest villagers and plaintiffs, who was in New York to testify in a retaliatory lawsuit filed by Chevron against lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Ecuador case.
Meanwhile, at the trial in New York, Judge Kaplan repeatedly assisted Chevron in intimidating and attacking key Ecuadorian witnesses and the defendant’s legal team.
In the retaliatory RICO lawsuit, Moncayo was subjected to a lengthy cross-examination by Chevron, after which Judge Kaplan ordered him to turn over a copy of his hard drive to the court.
Christopher Gowen, a legal ethics professor at American University Washington College of Law, was present in court and commented, "Watching an American judge threaten a foreigner in an American court with criminal penalties without the advice of counsel on a highly questionable court order defies everything our justice system stands for."
"Ecuador's supreme court has given careful consideration to each of Chevron's conspiratorial claims, and has rejected them one-by-one," said Han Shan, spokesperson for legal team representing the Ecuadorian Villagers. "While the company's complaints have found a sympathetic ear in Judge Kaplan's courtroom, the fact remains that Chevron has been found liable by the court it fought to have the case heard by, and that decision has now been upheld at the highest level."
"We witnessed outrageous abuse of power by the very pro-Chevron Judge Kaplan and there was nearly no mainstream media and no cameras to capture it," said Atossa Soltani of Amazon Watch. "This can only have a chilling effect on the willingness of witnesses in human rights cases to come forth to provide facts and pertinent information in an impartial setting where they are not going to feel threatened."
The Ecuadorians and their supporters have called for an end to Chevron's retaliatory lawsuit and the ongoing "rigged show trial" before Judge Kaplan, who has displayed outright hostility to the Ecuadorians' legal efforts to demand a cleanup. Judge Kaplan has also made repeated disparaging on the record comments about Ecuador's judicial system.
Chevron has no assets in Ecuador, forcing the communities to pursue the oil giant's assets around the world through enforcement actions currently underway in Brazil, Argentina and Canada.
Texaco operated in Ecuador until 1992, and Chevron absorbed the company in 2001, assuming all of its predecessor's assets and liabilities. Chevron has admitted to dumping nearly 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into rivers and streams relied upon by thousands of people for drinking, bathing, and fishing. The company also abandoned hundreds of unlined, open waste pits filled with crude, sludge, and oil drilling chemicals throughout the inhabited rainforest region. Multiple independent health studies have shown an epidemic of oil-related birth defects, cancers, and other illness.