13 September 2010

Nigeria: Chevron Prevails in Court Appeal

Chevron Corp successfully beat back an attempt by Nigerian villagers to hold it liable for a deadly clash on an oil platform in Nigeria, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

In 2008 a Northern California jury decided Chevron did not have to pay compensation to a group of plaintiffs for a clash a decade earlier between Nigerian state forces and protesters on Chevron's Parabe oil platform, 9 miles (14 km) off Nigeria's coast. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals refused on Friday to disturb that verdict, according to its ruling.

While the villagers claimed they launched a peaceful protest on the platform that turned bloody, at trial Chevron characterized the action as a hostage-taking.

One of the plaintiff attorneys, Bert Voorhees, said on Friday that they were disappointed in the appellate ruling, and that they had not yet decided whether to seek further judicial review.

"It's very, very rare any court of appeal is going to second-guess evidentiary rulings by an experienced judge," Voorhees said.

A Chevron spokesman said the appellate court ruling "further exonerates" the company.

"Chevron Nigeria Limited remains committed to its operations, the communities where Chevron Nigeria operates, and being a force for positive development in the region," company spokesman Kent Robertson said.

The appeal court also found that the Torture Victim Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1992, does not apply to corporations.

The case in the 9th Circuit is Bowoto v. Chevron Corp, 09-15641. (Reuters)

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