An Ontario Superior Court judge has sided with Chevron Corp. and tossed out an attempt by lawyers for Amazonian villagers trying to use Canadian courts to collect on a controversial $19-billion (U.S.) judgment levelled against the company in Ecuador over oil pollution.
The nearly 20-year battle between the Ecuadoreans and Chevron has seen its share of plot twists, including allegations of bribed judges, faked evidence and other wrongdoing made by both sides in U.S. courts and in a long-standing and bitter public-relations battle.
In a ruling released on Wednesday, Justice David Brown sided with Chevron and its Canadian subsidiary, saying his courtroom was not the place to fight the battle. He approved the defendants' motion to stay the proceedings, which the plaintiffs launched, hiring prominent Toronto litigator Alan Lenczner, in an attempt to have Ontario's courts recognize the 2011 Ecuadorean judgment against Chevron and force the company to pay up with its Canadian subsidiary's assets.
The Ecuadorean ruling, which Chevron has refused to pay, is against Chevron Corp., the San-Ramon, Calif.-based parent company, not Chevron Canada. And Chevron Canada's assets, the judge said, do not belong directly to its parent. The plaintiffs' assertions that they were one and the same, he ruled, have "no basis in law or fact."
Noting that Chevron had pledged to "fight until hell freezes over and then fight it out on the ice," Justice Brown ruled that allowing the battle between the two sides to take place here would mean "consuming significant time and judicial resources of this court," even though, his ruling states, Chevron Corp. has no assets in Ontario.
"While Ontario enjoys a bountiful supply of ice for part of each year, Ontario is not the place for that fight," Justice Brown wrote, suggesting the two sides fight the case somewhere Chevron has assets that could satisfy the massive judgment against it.
Mr. Lenczner said the plaintiffs would appeal.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected. An earlier version incorrectly stated that Justice David Brown said he did not have jurisdiction to rule on the case. In fact, he said he does have jurisdiction.