Canada's top court says Ecuadoreans can sue Chevron in Ontario
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's top court ruled on Friday that a group of Ecuadorean villagers could pursue a multi-billion pollution lawsuit against Chevron Corp in the Canadian province of Ontario.
Chevron is contesting a ruling by Ecuador's highest court that said the oil giant had to pay $9.5 billion to clean up contamination at a site it once owned. The villagers are now going after Chevron's assets in Canada, Brazil and Argentina.
"Canadian courts, like many others, have adopted a generous and liberal approach to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments," the Canadian Supreme Court said in its unanimous ruling.
The decision marked the third defeat for Chevron on the merits of the case in Canadian courts. The villagers can now continue with a 2012 lawsuit against Chevron's Canadian subsidiary in a lower Ontario court
In a ruling that affirms existing law, the court rejected Chevron's argument that there was no legal basis for the villagers to sue Chevron Canada, which was not part of the Ecuadorean judgment.
Chevron said in an emailed statement it would argue in the lower Ontario court that the lawsuit should be stopped early on the grounds the initial judgment "is the product of fraud and other misconduct, and is therefore illegitimate and unenforceable."
A U.S. judge concluded last year that the American lawyer who helped secure the settlement used corrupt means. That ruling has been appealed.
Fadel Gheit, an oil industry analyst at Oppenheimer & Co, said he gave the villagers "very little chance of succeeding in Canada," given the controversy over the original judgment and Chevron's relatively limited asset base in Canada. Continued...