The lawsuit itself dates to 1993, the year in which the class-action suit Aguinda v. Texaco was filed in New York. (Click to download the 1993 legal complaint against Texaco.) Texaco was headquartered in White Plains, NY at the time, and plaintiffs' legal team argued that the United States was the appropriate forum for the case, as the decisions that led to Ecuador's "Rainforest Chernobyl" were made in New York, at the highest levels of the company. Texaco petitioned for years to have the case relocated to Ecuador, submitting numerous affidavits in the process praising the integrity of Ecuador's judicial system. In 2002, after a series of appeals, Texaco's (now Chevron's) request was granted under the judicial doctrine of forum non conveniens. Chevron was required to submit to the jurisdiction of the Ecuadorian court. Thus, any judgment against it in Ecuador will be enforceable in the United States.
The current lawsuit was filed in Ecuador in May 2003. (Click to download the 2003 legal complaint against Chevron.) The Ecuadorian court system relies heavily on written testimony and physical evidence. Following a period of initial arguments, both sides requested judicial inspections of Texaco's former oil installations and waste pits to determine levels of contamination. The scientific record resulting from these inspectionsclearly shows levels of soil and water contamination far above legal limits. Even Chevron's own scientists have obtained significant data that supports the case against the company.
In February 2011, just two weeks before the judge in Lago Agrio released his verdict against Chevron, the company threw a desperate "Hail Mary" pass; it filed a lawsuit in the Second District Court of New York under the RICO (Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations) Act, a law written to prosecute the Mafia, which breathlessly accuses nearly every named Ecuadorian plaintiff, plaintiffs' lawyer, scientific consultant and allied activist organization involved in the Lago Agrio lawsuit, including Amazon Watch, of perpetrating an enormous fraud solely in order to extort billions of dollars from Chevron. Chevron's evidence comes largely from hundreds of hours of outtakes from the documentary Crude that Chevron obtained through a court-ordered subpoena. The outtakes show plaintiffs' lawyers making candid, tongue-in-cheek and exaggerated statements that, taken completely out of context (as Chevron has done) suggest an effort to intimidate and manipulate the court. Taken in their proper context, and in light of the abundance of scientific evidence proving Chevron's liability for contamination, these allegations just look like a desperate attempt to avoid justice and shift the focus away from the suffering of impoverished Ecuadorian people and toward the behavior of a few lawyers who dared to defend those people.