Donziger calls Ecuadorian SC's judgment a 'profound' accomplishment

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Nov 19, 2013

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) -- New York attorney Steven Donziger, who is being sued by Chevron Corp. for fraud, called a $9.5 billion damage claim that was upheld against the oil giant last week by Ecuador's Supreme Court a "profound" historical accomplishment by indigenous groups.

Donziger, who was expected to take the stand for the first time in an ongoing trial in a New York federal court Monday, made the comment in proposed sworn written testimony turned over to Chevron last week.

Earlier in the week, the Ecuadorian high court upheld a $9.5 billion damage claim against Chevron, but dismissed the $9 billion punitive damage award against the company.

The opinion is the final ruling in the hotly contested lawsuit between the villagers of Ecuador and Chevron.

In 2011, a lower Ecuadorian court found Chevron liable for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon, causing an outbreak of disease and decimating indigenous groups, and ordered the company to pay $19 billion.

Chevron has vowed never to pay the judgment.

It alleges that the Ecuador suit has been used to threaten the oil company, mislead U.S. government officials, and harass and intimidate its employees -- all to extort a financial settlement from the company.

And soon after the 2011 ruling, the company filed a racketeering lawsuit in a New York federal court in an effort to prevent Donziger and the Ecuadorians from pursuing enforcement of the award.

Judge Lewis Kaplan, for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, continues to hear testimony in the case. The trial began last month.

In his testimony, required by rules set by Kaplan, Donziger said the Ecuadorian court's judgment is based on "overwhelming" scientific evidence.

"This written testimony explains how Chevron's RICO case is factually and legally flawed and amounts to nothing more than a show trial," said Chris Gowen, of Washington, D.C.-based The Gowen Group Law Office PLLC and a spokesman for Donziger.

"Chevron has offered no evidence that would justify finding the lawsuit or the judgment is fraudulent and certainly nothing that would justify denying justice to the Ecuadorians who continue to suffer from contamination."

Donziger turned over his testimony to Chevron Thursday evening to allow the company's team of lawyers to prepare for week six of the trial, which is in the process of winding down.

Kaplan already has told the parties to prepare post-trial briefs.

Last week, a spokesman for Chevron called the Ecuadorian Supreme Court's ruling "as illegitimate and unenforceable today as it was when it was issued."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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