Chevron Corp.’s lawsuit claiming attorneys for Ecuadorean plaintiffs in a pollution case conspired to fabricate evidence was narrowed by a federal judge in New York.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan today allowed racketeering claims in the suit to continue while dismissing three of the claims that included fraud and tortious interference.
In a separate ruling, Kaplan also denied Chevron’s bid to attach $780 million it claims in damages.
Chevron was ordered last year to pay as much as $18 billion in compensatory and punitive damages for Texaco Inc.’s alleged dumping of toxic drilling wastes in the Ecuadorean jungle from 1964 to about 1992. The ruling came in an 18-year-old lawsuit decided by a judge in Lago Agrio, a provincial capital near the Colombian border.
Chevron has denied wrongdoing in the Lago Agrio lawsuit. The company says Texaco cleaned up its share of the pollution at its former oil fields, which were taken over by PetroEcuador, Ecuador’s state oil company. Chevron says it was released from any future liability by an agreement between Texaco and Ecuador. Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001.
“Today’s order affirms the core premise of Chevron’s RICO and fraud case,” said Justin Higgs, a spokesman for Chevron. “We are eager to progress our racketeering case and remain resolute in our efforts to hold the perpetrators of this unprecedented fraud and misconduct accountable.”
“Judge Kaplan’s decisions to deny Chevron attachment and to throw out several fraud claims represent yet another setback for the oil company and its shareholders,” said Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs. “Chevron’s RICO charges always have been baseless and are nothing more than a public relations stunt to hide the company’s environmental abuses and fraud in Ecuador that destroyed the rainforest and killed numerous people with cancer and other oil-related diseases.”
The case is Chevron Corp. v. Donziger, 11-691, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).