Chevron seeks legal costs from Nigerians
February 9, 2009
Chevron Corp. is seeking to recoup $485,000 in litigation costs from a group of Nigerian villagers who unsuccessfully sued the big energy company over the shootings of protesters who occupied an offshore oilrig, as reported by The San Francisco Chronicle. Attorneys for the Nigerians claimed this was a legal move designed to scare off foreigners from bringing similar lawsuits in the future. Two months ago, a federal jury in San Francisco cleared Chevron of wrongdoing in connection with the May 1998 confrontation on a barge tethered to a Chevron oil platform, during which two villagers were killed and Nigerian soldiers summoned by Chevron wounded two villagers. The villagers said they were peaceful while protesting the San Ramon company''s hiring and environmental policies in the oil-rich Niger Delta, but Chevron''s witnesses testified that the protesters had threatened violence, held crew members captive and demanded ransom. Chevron, which reported a record $23.93 billion profit last year, is seeking to recover an assortment of litigation costs from 49 plaintiffs - the villagers - who were involved at any time in the decade-long civil case. The amount includes $190,000 for photocopies of documents and $264,000 for court transcripts, records show. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston delayed ruling on Chevron''s request until after a March 6 hearing on the Nigerians'' motion for a new trial. Theresa Traber, a Pasadena attorney who represents the Nigerians, said that its doubtful Chevron would ever recover its $485,000 because, among other things, the villagers are poor. She said the people Chevron seeks to bill for the legal costs include a number of children as well as the family of a man who was killed on the oil platform. A spokesman for Chevron said that they are exercising their legal right to recover a portion of the costs. The lawsuit against Chevron is one of several that have been filed in recent years against American corporations under the Alien Tort Claim Act, a law passed by Congress in 1789 that allows foreign nationals to sue in U.S. federal court for alleged human rights violations.