Today a federal court in San Francisco dismissed in its entirety a lawsuit Chevron Corporation filed against Cristobal Bonifaz, a human rights lawyer who had previously lost a case he filed against the energy giant. The earlier action was filed on behalf of indigenous residents of the Ecuador Amazon rainforest over their claims they became ill with cancer from oil pollution of their water supply. The claims were later dismissed, and Chevron subsequently filed the current lawsuit against their lawyer, Cristobal Bonifaz, claiming he knew there was no basis for the environmental case.
A May 12, 2010 ruling by the Federal District Court had previously dismissed all but one part of Chevron's case against Mr. Bonifaz under a unique California law known as the anti-SLAPP statute, which protects First Amendment rights to, among other things, bring lawsuits. The ruling today also dismisses Chevron's one remaining claim. The Court ruled that even after having had the opportunity to question Mr. Bonifaz and others, Chevron was unable to produce any evidence that suggested he knew one of the plaintiffs did not have cancer. Under the California law, Chevron will be required to pay the legal expenses Mr. Bonifaz incurred in defeating Chevron's case. Chevron had sought $4 million in damages from Mr. Bonifaz, a solo practitioner who lives in Massachusetts and is a native of Ecuador. According to Mr. Bonifaz’s legal filings, Chevron's now-dismissed lawsuit is just one chapter in a legal battle dating back over 20 years in which Chevron and its predecessor, Texaco, have fought to avoid paying the costs associated with cleaning up after their oil drilling operations in the Ecuadorean rainforest.
Mr. Bonifaz is represented by Jacqueline Scott Corley of Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP, San Francisco, California.
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