A judge in the United States has ruled that Amazonian villagers cannot use the U.S. court system to enforce an Ecuadorian ruling against the American oil company. American Judge Lewis Kaplin of New York has ruled that the legal team led by Steven Donziger used corrupt means to win the case. The legal team representing the Amazonian villagers has promised to appeal.
If the courts had ruled against the company, Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) may have been liable for as much as $9.5 billion dollars in damages. Chevron is liable for billions of dollars worth of fines in Ecuador, however the government there has no way to really enforce the rulings. Chevron has no assets in the country that near the sum of the ruling, so the government cannot simply seize assets.
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Complicated legal case with decades-long history
In 2011, an Ecuadorian judge found Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) guilty of polluting the environment, affecting the health and livelihood of numerous Amazonian villagers. Lawyers representing the firm in the United States, however, argued that Chevron only lost the case because the lawyers representing the villagers in Ecuador paid at least $300,000 dollars in bribes.
The villagers claim that Texaco, which was later acquired by Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), contaminated the region between 1964 and 1992. Originally, courts had found Texaco liable for $18.5 billion dollars worth of damage, but this was later reduced to $9.5 billion dollars by the country’s high courts. The alleged pollution has been recorded in numerous documentaries and studies, though it is unclear who is responsible for said pollution.
Legal battle to continue
The legal team suing Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) represents some 30,000 villagers. The team charges that Chevron heavily polluted the Lago Agrio region and did not clean up the damage done. Chevron claims that it cleaned everything up before handing the land back over to the government, and thus it is the government’s fault for any pollution that may have occurred.
The legal team has vowed to appeal the case and to pursue Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) in other courts. The legal team charges that the American court’s ruling is a disregard for Ecuador’s legal system and argued that the court is essentially trying to overrule Ecuador’s Supreme Court.
Even if the case is dropped in the United States, Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX)’s legal battles are still fair from over. The legal team representing the villagers has also filed suits in Brazil, Argentina, and Brazil. Lawyers representing the company celebrated the victory and believe that it will aid them in legal cases in other countries.