The Supreme Court decided today not to intervene in the ongoing battle between Chevron Corp. and Ecuadorean plaintiffs over an $18 billion judgment against the oil giant.
Chevron had wanted the justices to review a January ruling by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that the oil company must wait before seeking to challenge enforcement of an Ecuadorean judge's $18 billion judgment in favor of thousands of indigenous Ecuadoreans over alleged oil pollution (Greenwire, Jan. 26).
The appeals court had earlier lifted an injunction imposed by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York that would have prevented the plaintiffs from enforcing the judgment in U.S. courts.
Justice Samuel Alito was not involved in the court's consideration of Chevron's petition, the Supreme Court said.
The plaintiffs must seek overseas enforcement of the judgment because Chevron has no assets in Ecuador.
Chevron is desperately fighting to avoid paying any of the judgment over the pollution allegedly caused by Texaco Petroleum Corp., which was acquired by Chevron in 2001. The oil company's strategy includes hard-hitting claims -- in the form of a racketeering lawsuit against the defendants' legal team -- that the entire case against it is a sham and that the Ecuadorean court system is corrupt. The plaintiffs have responded with their own allegations about Chevron's conduct during the litigation.
In a statement, a Chevron spokesman said the company "will continue to defend against the plaintiffs' lawyers' attempts to enforce the fraudulent Ecuadorean judgment."
The oil giant will also try to "further expose their misconduct" in the racketeering case and other proceedings, the spokesman added.
Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs, welcomed the Supreme Court's refusal to take the case.
"While we applaud the decision and welcome it, Chevron continues its futile battle to evade its legal obligations even as the victims of its reckless policies face a grave public health crisis and imminent danger of death in Ecuador," she added.
Click here to read E&E's special report on the case.