On November 3, 1993, 75 people, including settler-farmers and indigenous people of the Cofan, Secoya and Kichwa nationalities from the Orellana and Sucumbios provinces, filed a class-action lawsuit against the oil company Texaco in the Southern District Court of New York. They accused the company of polluting the environment and affecting public health due to the use of cheap and outdated technology during its oil exploitation activities in the Ecuadorian Amazon (1964-1990). Organizations of farmers, women, human rights advocates, young people, neighborhoods and other unions decided to support the lawsuit and called for more social organizations in the region to form a coalition to support and sustain the developing case.
After various meetings between settler communities, indigenous nationalities, federations of social and farmer organizations, and non-governmental organizations, the Amazon Defense Front (FDA), mainly composed of settlers, was founded on May 16, 1994 to fight for the rights of the people in the Amazon. They also coordinated the trials against Chevron during several years. In 2001, the affected comunities decided to replace the FDA as their official representative and created the ADAT (Association of people affected by Texaco), in order to form a democratic representation of 30 000 peasants and indigenous affected by Texaco (now Chevron). In 2005, they nominated Pablo Fajardo as common lead lawyer of 47 plaintiffs (procurador comun) in their trial against Chevron. The ADAT was replaced in 2013 by the UDAPT Union of people affected by the oil operations of Texaco (now Chevron) to legally represent the affected comunities and their plaintiffs.
In an effort to evade liability, Texaco signed with the Ecuadorian State an “environmental reparation” contract, implemented in 1996. The “environmental” work carried out by Texaco was questioned by the plaintiffs and later by the Comptroller General of the State (Ecuador Control Agency, which has an obligation to ensure compliance with contracts that any entity signs with the Ecuadorian State).
Under pressure from the oil company, on August 16, 2002 the Court of Appeals in New York decided to send the case to Ecuador. The plaintiffs unanimously decided to continue with legal action.and on May 7, 2003 the lawsuit was filed by 47 Ecuadorians in the Superior Court of Nueva Loja, Ecuador. On October 21 of that year, thousands of affected people mobilized to the city of Nueva Loja to participate in the hearing that initiated this historic trial; this is the only case in the world where people directly affected by a transnational oil company have been able to execute justice in their own country. Since then, the communities have been in constant action to monitor the judicial process and to make important decisions related to the case.
In the trial, the plaintiffs were concerned with proving, as the law requires, all charges against the oil company. Much of the trial evidence was produced and paid for by the defendant itself. In the record, more than 230,000 pages of information were accumulated, over 40 testimonies of people affected by Texaco’s operations were given, 106 expert reports were included (60 of which were paid for entirely by Chevron, Texaco’s successor company), more than 80,000 results of chemical samples taken from soil, water and sediment were produced, and various health studies conducted independently by foreign experts were presented to judges. The judge personally inspected and verified the damages in 54 sites operated by the oil company.
In conclusion, the existing scientific evidence is overwhelming, and it conclusively established the liability of the oil company with regard to environmental damages and social, cultural and economic impacts.
• On February 14 2011, the first verdict was issued against Chevron. Sentencing the TNC to pay 9.5 USD billion to be used for the repair of environmental damage, including cleaning of soils, water systems installation and implementation of health systems to the affected area, recovery systems of indigenous traditional way of life.
• On November 12 2013, the National Court of Justice (Supreme Court) of Ecuador unanimously ratified the sentence for the environmental, social and cultural damage caused by Chevron and its obligation to pay 9.5 USD billion.
• On September 4 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada allowed the affected communites to seek enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment in Canada. This is a global precedent for access to justice in a third country.
• On October 31 2017, the Court for Appeal of Ontario dismissed Chevron’s claim to order security costs to be paid by the affected comunities.