Ecuadoran Court Denies Motion for Clarification
Posted on January 17, 2012
The Sala Unica de la Corte Provincial de Justicia de Sucumbíos has rejected a request for clarification of its decision affirming the judgment against Chevron. The translation of the decision is somewhat difficult to follow—for me, at least—but of particular interest is the detail with which the court spells out the apology Chevron is to give. (Before turning to those details, it’s worth noting that in US law, at least, a mandatory apology would be a highly unusual remedy. But it’s not clear that Ecuador, rather than the US, is the outlier here: in InvestorsHub.com v. Mina Mar Group, the case of the day from July 15, 2011, we saw a Canadian court in a defamation case order the defendant to apologize and publicly retract the supposedly libelous statements it made about the plaintiff. On the other hand, the judgment in Mina Mar was unenforceable in the United States!)
According to the court, Chevron’s apology must be directed to the “communities of indigenous peoples, settlers, and in general, all those who have been affected by the damages” spelled out in the lower court’s judgment. It may be signed or offered by an individual acting as Chevron’s legal representative, “and shall act legitimized in the name of the company Chevron Corporation to do so both in Ecuador and in the United States of America.” The certified translation seems garbled here. The apology must contain Chevron’s “most sincere apologies” and it must “lament” the “damage caused to the ecosystem”, the “damage to the lives and health of the recipients [of the apology]”, and the “impact suffered by their cultures.” On the other hand, the apology may note that Chevron “is making the publication by judicial order” and that it does not “imply recognition of any obligation” or any civil or criminal liability.
Yikes! I don’t know the first thing about Ecuadoran law, but this kind of order is the kind of thing that makes the hair on the back of an American lawyer’s neck stand up.