Canada’s top court OKs Ecuador suit

07 September 2015, News Wires – Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that a group of Ecuadorean villagers could pursue a multi-billion-dollar pollution lawsuit against US supermajor Chevron.

The gavel and scale.

The gavel and scale.

The case can be heard in the Canadian province of Ontario, the court said, according to reports.

Chevron is contesting a ruling by Ecuador’s highest court, which said the oil giant had to pay $9.5 billion to clean up contamination at a site once owned by Texaco, which Chevron subsequently acquired.

The villagers are now going after Chevron assets for countries 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 on Friday, according to a Reuters report.

The unanimous decision marked the third defeat for Chevron on the merits of the case in Canadian courts, the news wire said. The villagers can now continue with a 2012 lawsuit they launched against Chevron’s Canadian subsidiary in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province.

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.

“A debt is enforceable against any and all assets of a given debtor, not merely those that may have a relationship to the claim,” said the court.

The court said given that a unit of Chevron was operating in Ontario, and given the villagers had followed correct legal procedure, courts in the province could hear the case.

Chevron told Reuters in an emailed statement tat it would argue in the lower Ontario court hearing the case 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”.

The Canadian top court said it was taking no position on the merits of the original case against Chevron.

Chevron says the American lawyer who helped secure the $9.5 billion Ecuadorean settlement used corrupt means.

The ruling came a day after Chevron claimed a minor victory following a decision by California-based litigation services firm H5, which withdrew its support from the $9.5 billion ruling and denounced the 1.25% piece of the award it had been granted by the Ecuador court.

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