Friday, February 4, 2011

Chevron's 'Kitchen Sink Defense' in Ecuador Includes Suing Victims of its Pollution

As you may have learned from my article here on Wednesday, Chevron's legal attacks reached new heights of outrageousness this week. With appalling arrogance, Chevron is suing the victims of its contamination in Ecuador in the same U.S. court from which it argued successfully to remove the original environmental lawsuit some ten years ago.

As Pablo Fajardo, lawyer for the plaintiffs in Ecuador, said:

“This is what a corporation does when it feels cornered and trapped. It lashes out against everyone in its way. The Ecuadorian plaintiffs have been treated as if they don’t exist or have a voice by Chevron’s endless discovery of core litigation strategy in U.S. courts.”

Pablo was named in the RICO lawsuit along with other colleagues, and the 47 "named plaintiffs" in the environmental lawsuit.

Human rights lawyer Marco Simons of EarthRights International wrote an article providing some analysis of this extraordinary and abusive legal attack by Chevron. He calls Chevron's tactics "The Kitchen Sink Defense"

He writes:

But three extraordinary things jumped out from my quick look at Chevron's complaint. First, while Chevron seeks orders that would prevent the plaintiffs from enforcing any judgment against them, nothing in their complaint establishes that Chevron is not responsible for environmental damage in the Ecuadorian Amazon. What Chevron is trying to do is to use alleged misconduct by the plaintiffs' lawyers to absolve them of any responsibility; a sort of judicial get-out-of-jail-free card. In fact, Chevron probably can't ask the US court to decide whether they're responsible for the environmental damage--the plaintiffs filed that case in New York fifteen years ago, and it was Chevron (or Texaco, at the time) that successfully moved it to Ecuador.

Actually, the original lawsuit was filed in 1993. And in arguing to have the case dismissed under forum non conveniens, Chevron submitted fourteen affidavits attesting to the competency, independence, and transparency of the Ecuadorian courts and judicial system. The company then promised to submit to jurisdiction in Ecuador, where the plaintiffs re-filed the suit in 2003, and also promised to abide by any verdict in the case, subject only to standard appeals process.

But I digress. Marco continues his analysis of Chevron's RICO complaint:

One telling fact here is that Chevron only sued some of the plaintiffs' lawyers--they did not, for example, sue Patton Boggs, which is now heading up the U.S. team supporting the Lago Agrio litigation. That seems like an acknowledgment that the Lago Agrio litigation itself is not fraudulent, even if Chevron thinks some of the tactics employed by some of the lawyers have been.

Read the rest of Marco's analysis of Chevron's latest legal attacks at the EarthRights International blog, and stay tuned for more as this develops.

– Han

Han Shan is the Coordinator of Amazon Watch's Clean Up Ecuador Campaign

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