Oil giant Chevron suffered a legal setback today in the Ecuador pollution case when a three-judge appellate panel in Canada denied the company’s attempt to force indigenous and farmer communities to pay its legal fees.
The decision, by the Court of Appeal for Ontario, allows the indigenous groups to continue with their five-year effort to try to seize Chevron assets in Canada to pay for an environmental remediation of their ancestral lands based on a $9.5 billion judgment won in Ecuador’s courts in 2011.
Chevron had insisted the underlying trial take place in Ecuador and had accepted jurisdiction there, but when it lost the case it refused to pay the judgment.
In vacating a September order from a motions judge to grant a Chevron request to collect roughly $1 million in legal fees from the plaintiffs, the three-judge panel issued a ruling that said “it is difficult to accept that the motion for security for costs was anything more than a measure [by Chevron] intended to bring an end to the litigation.”
Canadian rules, the panel wrote, require the judge “to take a step back and consider the justness of the order sought in all the circumstances of the case.” The panel found that the judge, however, “failed to undertake this part of that analysis.”
“The plaintiffs [Ecuadorian indigenous groups] are seeking to enforce a judgment in which they have no direct economic interest. Funds collected on that judgment will be paid into a trust and net funds are to be used for environmental rehabilitation or health care purposes. This is public interest litigation.”
“Chevron Corp and Chevron Canada have annual gross revenues in the billions of dollars. It is difficult to believe that either of these two corporations, which form part of a global conglomerate with approximately 1,500 subsidiaries, require protection for costs awards that amount or could amount to a miniscule fraction of their revenues,” the panel added.
The panel also wrote that “there can be no doubt that the environmental devastation to the appellants’ lands has severely hampered their ability to earn a livelihood. If we accept the findings that underlie the Ecuadorian judgment – findings that have not been undermined in our courts – Texaco has contributed to the plaintiffs’ misfortune.”
Source: Scoop Independent News, New Zealand