Years and years ago, when the litigation between Chevron and the Lago Agrio claimants in Ecuador was young, Chevron’s then-lawyers at King & Spalding moved to have the Ecuadorians’ case thrown out of federal district court in Manhattan on forum non conveniens grounds. Chevron argued that the courts in Ecuador could handle litigation involving its predecessor Texaco’s alleged contamination of oil fields in the Amazonian rain forest. The oil giant won that battle — but now finds itself scrambling to undermine the credibility of the Ecuadorian courts as it faces a damages ruling that may run into the tens of billions of dollars.
Chevron’s experience doesn’t seem to have deterred Occidental Petroleum, which faces similar claims of environmental desecration and toxic torts from dozens of indigenous Peruvians who live along the Rio Corrientes. The Peruvians, along with the group Amazon Watch, filed a 2007 tort suit in superior court in Los Angeles County, where Occidental is based. (The plaintiffs are represented by the public interest group EarthRights International and Schonbrun Desimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman.) Occidental’s lawyers at Munger, Tolles & Olson had the Peruvians’ case removed to federal court, where they moved to dismiss it on forum non conveniens grounds.
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