Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Federal Judge Hits Chevron Over Ecuador Litigation Tactics

Says Oil Giant's Legal Motions Are "Spiraling Out of Control"

Amazon Defense Coalition

Amazon Defense Coalition
22 September 2010 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

A federal magistrate judge in Tennessee told Chevron yesterday that he would sharply limit any further discovery of a scientific consultant for the Amazonian communities suing for the clean-up of what is believed to be the world's worst oil-related disaster, according to court papers in the case.

Judge Joe B. Brown, in an order, limited further discovery by Chevron and ruled that the oil giant cannot "use" the U.S. federal court "to try a dispute that is pending in a foreign proceeding." The case against Chevron is being heard in Ecuador at the request of the company after 30,000 Ecuadorians originally filed suit in U.S. federal court in 1993.

Judge Brown was ruling on Chevron's attempt to obtain further testimony and document production from Mark Quarles, a former scientific consultant for the Ecuadorian communities based in Nashville. Quarles already was deposed by Chevron; he is one of 23 persons in ten states that Chevron has sued in federal courts to get discovery documents related to the Ecuador case to try to prove that a "fraud" occurred in the preparation of a damages assessment.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in Ecuador have called the discovery lawsuits a form of harassment designed to exhaust the resources of the Amazonian communities just as the long-running trial comes to a close. They also say that Chevron's allegations are actually designed to distract attention from its own fraud and misconduct; two Chevron officials are under criminal indictment in Ecuador for lying about the results of a purported environmental clean-up.

Both Chevron and the Amazonian communities say the evidence points to Chevron's culpability and that a judgment against Chevron is likely.

In the Quarles case, Judge Brown wrote that the discovery proceeding initiated by Chevron "is not an opportunity to put on a full trial" and ruled that "Chevron is not entitled to pierce the work-product protection...because it has not shown the 'exceptional circumstances' required" by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Judge Brown noted in his ruling that what should be a limited proceeding is quickly "spiraling out of control." He added:

"Chevron had the opportunity to litigate this matter in the United States and strongly opposed jurisdiction in favor of litigating in the Ecuadorian courts. While fraud on any court is a serious accusation that must be investigated, it is not within the power of this court to do so, any more than a court in Ecuador should be used to investigate fraud on this court."

"Chevron's litigation strategy throughout the trial has been one of designed to distract and delay," said Pablo Fajardo, the Ecuadorian lawyer for the communities.

"All information that Chevron supposedly is seeking is already squarely before the Ecuadorian court and most of it has been in the trial record for years," he added. "In the meantime, thousands of people are suffering from cancers and other health impacts as a result of Chevron's contamination."

For a copy of the judge's order can be found here.