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Bowoto v. Chevron

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Synopsis

Bowoto v. Chevron is a class action lawsuit charging Chevron/Texaco Corporation with gross violations of human rights including extrajudicial killing; crimes against humanity; and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in the Niger Delta region. It was filed in both the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and the Superior Court of California.

Status

The suit was decided by a jury on December 1, 2008. Jurors unanimously agreed that Chevron was not liable for any of the numerous allegations. Case has been closed.

Description

The plaintiffs – unarmed protestors and innocent citizens of the Niger Delta region of Niger – seek compensation injunctive and other relief under the federal Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) which allows suits in U.S courts against individuals or corporations that commit human rights violations. The plaintiffs also seek compensation under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and California state law.

In May 1998, unarmed residents of the Niger Delta protested at Chevron’s offshore Parabe Platform, demanding that the corporation contribute more resources to the development of the impoverished oil region. Even though negotiations seemed to be moving, on the morning of May 28, the protestors were shot and some killed by Nigerian soldiers and Chevron security personnel who were transported to the platform on Chevron-leased helicopters.

The suit also charges that the defendant, Chevron/Texaco, and its subsidiaries' actions in the Niger Delta have caused the destruction of riverbeds, natural ecosystems, and have contributed to extreme land erosion.

For more on the case, please visit www.ccrjustice.org/bowoto.

Timeline

On May 27, 1999, the victims of the Parabe incident and innocent residents of the Niger Delta region filed suit against Chevron/Texaco and its Nigerian subsidiaries.

On April 7, 2000, the defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint on grounds of forum non conveniens was denied. The district court held that even though Chevron’s Nigerian subsidiary was amenable to Nigerian courts, it was Chevron Corporation that was being sued, and since there was no jurisdiction over Chevron in Nigeria, the motion must be denied.

On March 23, 2004, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs did not have sufficient evidence to hold the parent corporation, Chevron, liable for the actions of its Nigerian subsidiary. Judge Susan Illston ruled against the defendants, holding that there was an “extraordinarily close relationship between the parents and subsidiaries prior to, during and after the attacks,” making the subsidiary an agent of Chevron and holding the parent corporation liable.

On November 4, 2004, the Superior Court of California denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the state case on grounds that Chevron was exercising its right to free speech by lying about and covering up the violence at Parabe.

In late 2006, Chevron filed five motions for summary judgment in the federal case that challenged the plaintiffs’ claims for crimes against humanity and for violation of the RICO Act. They also challenged the case on the basis that Chevron cannot be held liable for acts of the Nigerian military. Chevron also filed four motions for summary judgment in the state case. All motions are currently under consideration.

August 25, 2008, The date in which the trial is set in the Superior Court of California.

September 29, 2008, The date that the jury damages trial is scheduled to take place in the US District Court of Northern Califorina.