March 11, 2014

Epic Ecuadorian Litigation to Play out in Canada

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruleswatch @ 1:20 pm

A spectacular recent, American Federal trial court ruling has at least temporarily put “paid” to super-epic, international litigation arising from 1970’s to 1990’s oil contamination of Ecuadorian rainforests.

The US claim (an attempt to enforce an 18 billion dollar Ecuadorian award in favour of thousands of Ecuadorians, against the alleged despoiler’s corporate successor, Chevron, in the States) has been ordered stayed by the New York district court based primarily of findings of misconduct attributed to the litigation’s legal master mind, American lawyer, Stephen Donzinger , [

The decision — for the moment, (Donzinger has announced that he has hired appellate counsel to challenge the decision) – has left a well known Canadian claim, Yaiguaje v. Chevron Corp.,2013 ONCA 758 [] with companion judgement enforcement litigation in Brazil and Argentina, to continue, pending the hearing of an appeal. 2014 ONCA 40

Website representatives of the Ecuadorian judgement holders state that following the American judgement, their “… focus now is on enforcing their judgment in countries where they can receive a fair hearing about Chevron’s pollution of the rainforest and refusal to abide by a legitimate ruling from the courts in Ecuador…”[

How that focus plays out remains to be seen. Chevron, who have said they would “fight this until hell freezes over” and then “fight it out on the ice,” have filed an application for leave to appeal on the Ontario appeal court decision, which was remitted to a leave-to-appeal panel of the Supreme Court of Canada on February 24, 2014.

Reuters has said, “Vaughan Black, a professor at the Schulich School of Law in Halifax, Nova Scotia, thinks Kaplan’s ruling will resonate if the Canadian case ends up being considered on its merits.”

“Basically an Ontario court would have to look at all the evidence again and start at the beginning,” Black said. “I suppose there is always the possibility that they could take a different view of which witnesses were credible, but the New York court didn’t even think it was a close call. So it doesn’t look very promising for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs.” []

On the other hand, Reuters has reported, the Canadian lawyer for the Ecuadorian interests, Alan Lenczner, has said the American ruling has “zero” impact on the ongoing proceedings in Canada.

Whether or how the American decision plays into Canadian litigation remains to be seen.


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