Canada high court to hear Chevron in $9.1 bln Ecuador lawsuit

OTTAWA, April 3 Thu Apr 3, 2014 2:36pm EDT

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OTTAWA, April 3 (Reuters) - The Supreme Court of Canada agreed on Thursday to hear an appeal by Chevron Corp of a lower-court decision that said Ecuadorean villagers could pursue in Ontario their $9.51 billion lawsuit for pollution in the Amazon jungle.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in December that Ontario was a proper jurisdiction for the Ecuadorean plaintiffs to press Chevron to pay up, and Chevron wants the Supreme Court of Canada to say the Ontario courts have no jurisdiction.

It was the latest twist in a two-decade conflict between Chevron and residents of Ecuador's Lago Agrio region in the Amazon jungle, which want the Ontario courts to force Chevron to pay up the judgment awarded to them in an Ecuadorean court in 2011. The California-based company no longer has any assets in Ecuador.

A U.S. judge issued a scathing decision on March 4 that found that American lawyer Stephen Donziger had used corrupt means to help villagers win the judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. It barred Donziger and the villagers from enforcing the Ecuadorean judgment in the United States.

The Ecuadoreans say Chevron has $15 billion of assets in Canada. The Ontario Court of Appeal decision in December overturned a ruling six months earlier by Ontario Superior Court Justice David Brown, who had granted Chevron a stay in the proceedings on the basis that the case had little hope of success and that Chevron Canada's assets were not directly owned by Chevron Corp.

The name of the case is Chevron Corporation et al. v. Daniel Carlos Lusitande Yaiguaje et al. (35682). (Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Richard Chang)

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