Federal judge blocks damages in Chevron Ecuador pollution case

A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 7 issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of a recent Ecuadoran court judgment against US oil company Chevron. The injunction blocks plaintiffs from attempting to secure $8.6 billion in damages from the company, which were awarded last month by the Provincial Court of Sucumbios after finding that Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001, polluted large areas of Ecuador’s rainforest.

Following last month’s verdict, Chevron vowed to appeal and called the ruling “illegitimate and unenforceable” and “the product of fraud,” while the plaintiffs’ lawyer also announced his intention to appeal after the court awarded far less than the $113 billion originally sought. Also in February, Chevron filed a lawsuit against plaintiffs’ lawyers and consultants in the case, claiming that they were attempting to extort Chevron. [In the March 7 ruling, the judge ruled that the Sucumbios judgment could not be enforced until the racketeering case against the plaintiffs’ lawyers is decided. (ENS, March 7)]

The against Chevron suit was re-filed in Ecuador in 2003 after being dismissed by the Southern District of New York in 1996. Chevron claims that a 1995 cleanup agreement between Ecuador and Texaco, completed in 1998 at a cost of $40 million, absolves Chevron of all liability. Plaintiffs originally filed suit against Texaco, which operated the oil fields from the 1960’s until the early 1990’s.

From Jurist, March 8. Used with permission.

See our last posts on the Ecuador case and the struggle for the Amazon.