Caso Chevron

Doug Cassel on Yaiguaje

Letters Blogatory 09/09/2015

Last week’s jurisdictional decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in Chevron v. Yaiguaje is a first-inning victory for the Lago Agrio plaintiffs, in their quest for a foreign court to enforce their $9.6 billion Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron for harm allegedly caused by Texaco’s oil pollution decades ago.

But first innings alone do not win ball games. The plaintiffs have a long way to go in Canada, and the toughest issues remain before them. As the Court made clear, “A finding of jurisdiction does nothing more than afford the plaintiffs the opportunity to seek recognition and enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment.”

The only issues before the Canadian Supreme Court were jurisdictional: Can the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ suit to enforce their judgment be heard in Canada at all? This broke down into two issues: Could an Ontario court entertain the suit against Chevron (the US-based parent company), and could it entertain the suit against Chevron Canada (the company’s Canadian subsidiary)? On both issues, the rulings were limited to jurisdiction over suits to “recognize and enforce a foreign judgment.”

The Court saw no need for Canadian courts to have a “real and substantial connection” to Chevron or the Ecuadorian case in order to hear an enforcement action. In regard to Chevron Canada, the Court held that Canadian courts have jurisdiction over Canadian companies.
Neither ruling was a shocker. The lower courts had already found jurisdiction. The Court affirmed their jurisdictional rulings. While there was some precedent and factual support for Chevron’s effort to avoid Canadian jurisdiction, the weight of authority supported the plaintiffs’ effort to be heard.

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