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1998-11-17

Indigenous Ecuadorians Sue Texaco

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A Federal District Court judge will be hearing arguments today on a class action suit against Texaco brought about by indigenous communities from Ecuador’s Amazon basin. The plaintiffs charge Texaco with ruining their rivers and land, causing widespread devastation to the rainforest environment and creating a dramatically increased risk of cancer for tens of thousands of people. According to attorneys, damages could exceed a billion dollars.

The case is being heard today by Judge Jed Rakoff, a Federal District Court judge who had dismissed the case earlier but had his decision overturned by a higher three-judge panel. Judge Rakoff is to decide whether the case will be tried in the U.S., or will be referred to Ecuadorian courts. Plaintiffs in the case are using an obscure law of the 1700’s that was used to prosecute pirates, and if their legal tactics are successful, the case would set an important precedent for groups trying to sue companies for environmental damages in the countries where the companies are based.

Guest:

  • Joseph Kohn, lead attorney for the plaintiffs on the Texaco lawsuit.
  • Chris Jochnik, Coordinator for Latin America at the Center for Economic and Social Rights, from Quito, Ecuador. Call: Center for Economic and Social Rights 212.634.3424.

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