Last week, a Canadian Superior Court judge heard arguments in a $19 billion legal battle between Chevron and a group of trial lawyers representing Ecuadorian villagers and expressed doubts over whether or not he could issue a ruling on the case.
Ontario Superior Court Justice David Brown questioned whether or not he could rule on the case while an appeal is pending in Ecuador’s constitutional court, the Associated Press reports.
“Chevron Corporation appreciated the opportunity to present its initial challenge to the statement of claim in this matter,” Chevron said in a statement. “Focusing only on the limited issue of whether the Ontario courts had jurisdiction to hear this case in the first instance, Justice Brown took that legal question under reserve until early next year.”
Brown also asked why the case was being heard in Canada and not the United States — where Chevron has sufficient assets. He was reported saying “You should all be in New York” several times during the hearings.
“Justice Brown also noted on more than one occasion that Chevron Corporation has sufficient assets in United States and questioned why the Ecuadorian plaintiffs were not proceeding there — something we have asked as well,” the statement continued.
Chevron has been locked in an $19 billion legal battle with environmental groups over environmental damage allegedly caused by Texaco Petroleum Company from 1964 to 1992 while it operated in partnership with the state-owned oil company PetroEcuador — though Chevron did not acquire Texaco until 2001.
Last year, Ecuadorian courts awarded the plaintiffs $19 billion for black sludge contamination of a rainforest, but Chevron refuses to pay and argues that Texaco dealt with the problem before it was acquired by Chevron.
However, the case has been plagued by allegations of corruption and, last year, Chevron filed a racketeering suit in the U.S. against the Ecuadorians and their lawyers for conducting a “fraudulent litigation and PR campaign against the company,” Bloomberg reports.
The suit against Chevron was brought to Canada in May and subsequently to Argentina and Brazil in an effort to go after Chevron assets on multiple fronts because Chevron currently has no assets within Ecuador. Earlier this month, an Argentine judge froze Chevron’s in the country until the $19 billion award is found.
The AP reports that foreign judgments can be enforced in Canada as long as there exists a “real and substantive connection” between the foreign jurisdiction and the subject of the claim.
However, Chevron lawyers argued that the Ecuador case had no cause against Chevron’s Canadian subsidiary since the judgment was against the parent company and the company’s subsidiaries largely operate independently from the parent company.
“There is no other connection to Ontario but for the claim that the assets of Chevron Canada Ltd. are the assets of Chevron Corp,” said Chevron lawyer Alan Mark.
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