US court rules for Chevron in Ecuador rainforest damage case
NEW YORK (AP) — Ecuadorean plaintiffs cannot collect a $9 billion judgment in the U.S. against energy company Chevron for rainforest damage, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, upholding a judge's finding that the judgment was obtained through bribery, coercion and fraud.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan had the authority after a trial to rule in March 2014 as he did. It noted, however, that Kaplan's decision doesn't invalidate the Ecuadorean judgment and doesn't stop the enforcement of the judgment outside the U.S.
A U.S. spokeswoman for the Ecuadoreans, Karen Hinton, said they were shocked and called it a "sad day for the U.S. justice system."
|Judge Nicholas Zambrano on the stand cross examined by Chevron attorney Randy Mastro during the 2013 trial in Manhattan Federal court. Jusdge Lewis Kaplan presiding|
|Steven Donzinger on the stand questioned by Randy Mastro attorney for Chevron. Sting in audience far right seated next to Amazon tribal leader.|
In a decision written by Circuit Judge Amalya Kearse, a three-judge 2nd Circuit panel rejected the argument by the Ecuadorean plaintiffs that they were unaware of wrongdoing by lawyers in the case and shouldn't be held responsible.
"There is no authority suggesting that a party ignorant of its attorney's fraudulent actions may enforce a fraudulently procured judgment," the panel said. "Even innocent clients may not benefit from the fraud of their attorney."
An attorney for a New York City lawyer, Steven Donziger, who was heavily criticized by Kaplan, called the 2nd Circuit decision "unprecedented in American law" and vowed to explore all options on appeal.
"Never before has a U.S. court allowed someone who lost a case in another country to come to the U.S. to attack a foreign court's damages award," attorney Deepak Gupta said. "The decision hands well-heeled corporations a template for avoiding legal accountability anywhere in the world. And it throws the entire international judgment enforcement framework out the window."
The case resulted from a long-running court battle between Amazon rainforest residents and oil companies.
|Reed Brodsky cross examines Amazon tribal leader in Manhattan Federal Court, during the Chevron v Donzinger trial in 2013|