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Top court to hear Chevron in $9.1-billion Ecuador lawsuit

|Written By Randall Palmer, Reuters

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed on Thursday to hear an appeal by Chevron Corp of a lower-court decision that said Ecuadorean villagers could pursue in Ontario their $9.51-billion lawsuit for pollution in the Amazon jungle.

Oil workers clean up a pool of water contaminated by oil in Taracoa, Ecuador, whose residents are part of the class action suit against U.S. oil giant Chevron, in this December 2007 photo. (Photo: Guillermo Granja/Reuters)

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in December that Ontario was a proper jurisdiction for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs to press Chevron to pay up, and Chevron wants the Supreme Court of Canada to say the Ontario courts have no jurisdiction.

In the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Yaiguaje v. Chevron Corp., Justice James McPherson wrote: “Even before the Ecuadorian judgment was released, Chevron, speaking through a spokesman, stated that Chevron intended to contest the judgment if Chevron lost.  He said: ‘We’re going to fight this until hell freezes over.  And then we’ll fight it out on the ice.’

“Chevron’s wish is granted.  After all these years, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs deserve to have the recognition and enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment heard on the merits in an appropriate jurisdiction.  At this juncture, Ontario is that jurisdiction.”

The SCC’s granting of leave to appeal was the latest twist in a two-decade conflict between Chevron and residents of Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region in the Amazon jungle, which want the Ontario courts to force Chevron to pay up the judgment awarded to them in an Ecuadorean court in 2011. The California-based company no longer has any assets in Ecuador.

A U.S. judge issued a scathing decision on March 4 that found that American lawyer Stephen Donziger had used corrupt means to help villagers win the judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. It barred Donziger and the villagers from enforcing the Ecuadorean judgment in the United States.

The Ecuadoreans say Chevron has $15 billion of assets in Canada. The Ontario Court of Appeal decision in December overturned a ruling six months earlier by Ontario Superior Court Justice David Brown, who had granted Chevron a stay in the proceedings on the basis that the case had little hope of success and that Chevron Canada’s assets were not directly owned by Chevron Corp.


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