A group of Ecuadorian plaintiffs have shifted their legal battle to Canada in hopes that Chevron Corp. will finally pay them $18 billion.
In 1993, a group of Ecuadorians sued Chevron, claiming the oil giant made local people sick by dumping drilling waste into unlined pits in the 1970s and 1980s. In February 2011, a judge in a small Ecuadorian jungle town ordered Chevron to pay more than $9 billion in damages. The court later raised the damages amount to $18 billion when Chevron failed to publicly apologize for the alleged environmental offenses. An appeals court upheld the ruling in January, and Chevron has appealed to Ecuador’s Supreme Court.
But because Chevron no longer has any assets in Ecuador, the plaintiffs, seeking to end the squabble and enforce the judgment, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Canada, where Chevron and various subsidiaries hold significant assets.
“While Chevron might think it can ignore court orders in Ecuador, it will be impossible to ignore a court order in Canada where a court may seize the company’s assets if necessary to secure payment,” said Pablo Fajardo, the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer. “We plan to exercise our legal right to collect every penny of the legitimate judgment from Ecuador, even if we have to drag Chevron kicking and screaming into courts around the world.”
Fajardo also hinted in a conference call yesterday that the plaintiffs would be filing additional suits in other jurisdictions. He told Reuters in March that the plaintiffs would target Chevron’s assets in Panama and Venezuela.
Meanwhile, Chevron has long claimed that corruption and bribery in the Ecuadorian judicial system has unfairly skewed the court proceedings. The company is pursuing a racketeering lawsuit in the U.S. against the U.S. legal adviser to Ecuador, Steven Donziger.
For more InsideCounsel stories about the suit against Chevron, read: