Ecuadoreans whose $18 billion verdict against Chevron Corp. in their country was put on hold by a U.S. judge won an appeals court ruling they say will allow them to raise money to enforce the judgment at a later date.
A three-judge panel in New York today granted a request to partially lift a lower-court order that restrained the Ecuadorean residents’ efforts to enforce the Feb. 14 judgment over environmental damage to the Amazon River basin. The court refused the Ecuadorean plaintiffs’ request to put on hold a lawsuit Chevron filed against them now pending in federal court in Manhattan.
The panel also said it would expedite the schedule for hearing the appeal of the restraining order, which blocked the Ecuadoreans from trying to collect the judgment in a U.S. or foreign court anywhere in the world.
The appeals court said the plaintiffs aren’t restrained by the lower-court order “other than commencing, prosecuting or receiving benefit from recognition, enforcement, or prejudgment seizure or attachment proceedings.”
The appeals court’s decision allows the Ecuadoreans to meet with their American lawyers and raise money to enforce the judgment in the oil-cleanup lawsuit at a later date, Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs, said in an e-mail.
‘All Key Respects’
Justin Higgs, a Chevron spokesman, said the company is pleased with today’s ruling, which he said keeps the lower court’s order “in place in all key respects, and rejects the defendants’ efforts to derail the November 2011 trial on the enforceability of the fraudulent Ecuadorean judgment.”
“This injunction was never about whether denying the defendants the right to communicate with their clients or fundraise,” Higgs said in an e-mail. “It was about preventing them from furthering enforcement proceedings and financially benefiting from them, which the Second Circuit has now affirmed they cannot do.”
The appeals court case is Chevron Corp. v. Hugo Gerardo Camacho Naranjo, 11-1150, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York). The case in Ecuador is Maria Aquinda v. Chevron, 002-2003, Superior Court of Nueva Loja, Lago Agrio, Ecuador.