On Friday, Ecuadorean Judge Leonardo Ordonez, who currently presides over the case where indigenous plaintiffs seek to hold Chevron Corp. liable for pollution of the Amazon River Basin, closed the evidentiary phase of the trial, as plaintiffs released a new damages recommendation of $90 billion to $113 billion.
Chevron has sought to discredit the damages figure previously embraced by plaintiffs — up to $27 billion — by attacking the credibility of the court-appointed expert who recommended the figure (click here and here for previous reports on the matter). Far from rolling over, plaintiffs have doubled down — and doubled down again.
The close of evidence in Ecuador came a day after a San Francisco federal magistrate granted a motion by Ecuador for discovery under 28 U.S.C. §1782 in aid of a foreign tribunal, and ordered the deposition of the man who produced the videotape that Chevron has cited as evidence of judicial prejudice and corruption. It was a turning of the tables for Chevron, which has won 1782 motions from coast to coast.
On the two biggest-ticket items, plaintiffs damages numbers greatly exceed the earlier recommendations of controversial court-appointed expert Richard Cabrera. To calculate the cost of cancer deaths, the new upper-range figure of about $70 billion is based on a projection of both past and future deaths allegedly attributable to oil pollution in a large region surrounding the oil concession. (Cabrera had counted only past deaths.) To calculate unjust enrichment, the plaintiffs reached a new upper-range figure of about $38 billion by multiplying the amount that the oil company allegedly saved through cutting corners by a factor of four. Plaintiffs reason that this is necessary to deter similar conduct because they estimate the oil company ran only a 25 percent chance of being penalized.
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