Introductory Remarks by Dan Bodansky

Article excerpt

The theme of this year's Annual Meeting is "complexity," and perhaps nothing could better exemplify this theme than the topic of our panel today, the Chevron-Ecuador dispute. The dispute has become the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce of transnational litigation. It has been going on now for almost two decades, and has spawned a series of ancillary cases, including a civil RICO action in U.S. courts, a complaint in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, arbitration under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), and discovery proceedings in the United States that the Third Circuit described as "unique in the annals of American judicial history." (1)

Just trying to summarize the course of the dispute would take up all of our time today, so let me give only some very brief background. The case arises out of oil development by a consortium of companies, led by Texaco, in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador from 1964-1992. Residents of the region originally filed a class action lawsuit against Texaco in the Southern District of New York in 1993 alleging a variety of environmental and health damages. After nine years of litigation, the case was ultimately dismissed from U.S. courts in 2002 on grounds of forum non conveniens, after Texaco agreed to accept the jurisdiction of the Ecuadorian courts. In 2003, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs refiled the case in Ecuador against Chevron, which in 2001 had merged with Texaco. After nearly eight years of litigation, the Ecuadorian trial court issued its decision in February 2011, finding that Chevron was liable for widespread environmental degradation in Ecuador, and awarding the plaintiffs $8.6 billion in damages as well another $8. …


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