TORONTO Dec 17 An Ontario appeals court ruled
on Tuesday that a group of Ecuadoreans can seek enforcement in
Canada of a $9.5 billion judgment against U.S. oil company
Chevron Corp, overturning a lower court decision from
earlier in the year.
In the latest turn of a two-decade conflict between Chevron
and residents of Ecuador's Lago Agrio region in the Amazon
jungle, a three-judge panel said the case should proceed, which
means the Ecuadoreans can seek damages in Canada that were
originally awarded to them in a South American court two years
The decision overturns a May ruling 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.
"After all these years, the plaintiffs deserve to have the
recognition and enforcement of the (Ecuadorean) judgment heard
on the merits in an appropriate jurisdiction. At this juncture,
Ontario is that jurisdiction," the panel wrote in a 29-page
The plaintiffs have gone to Canada to target what they say
are Chevron's $15 billion worth of assets in the country. The
California-based company no longer has any assets in Ecuador.
The judges ordered Chevron and its Canadian subsidiary to
pay C$100,000 ($94,300) in costs to the plaintiffs.
In a statement, Chevron said it was evaluating its next
steps, including a possible appeal to the Supreme Court of
"If the plaintiffs truly believed in the validity of the
(Ecuadorean) judgment, they should seek enforcement in the
United States, where Chevron Corp resides," the company said.
"They are aware that in the U.S., however, they would be
confronted by the fact that eight federal courts have already
found the Ecuador trial to be tainted by fraud."
The Ecuadoreans claim that Texaco, which Chevron acquired in
2001, contaminated the Lago Agrio area from 1964 to 1992.
"The recognition by the Superior Court (of Canada) will
continue and we expect in the coming months to begin taking
actions against assets of the company, once the sentence is
recognized," said Julio Prieto, a lawyer representing the
plaintiffs, during a press conference in Quito.
The plaintiffs were awarded an $18 billion decision in an
Ecuadorean court in February 2011, but Chevron has steadfastly
refused to pay, saying the ruling was influenced by fraud and
bribery. The size of the original judgment was reduced last
month by Ecuador's Supreme Court.
The plaintiffs have since sought to persuade the Ontario
court -- among other jurisdictions -- to collect the damages
awarded to them by the South American court.
A related fraud case in New York wrapped up in November,
though a decision from that proceeding is not expected right
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the country's
courts can recognize and enforce foreign judgments in cases
where there is a "reasonable and substantial connection" between
the cause of the action and the foreign court.