SAN RAMON, Calif., Aug. 7, 2007 -- On August 3, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California threw out complaints against Chevron Corporation filed on behalf of three Ecuadorians, finding that the plaintiffs fabricated their claims that they or their relative had cancer caused by the former operations of a Chevron subsidiary, Texaco Petroleum Company, in Ecuador.
The three plaintiffs -- Gloria Chamba, Luisa Gonzales and Gonzales's husband, Nixon Rodriguez Crespo -- were among a group of seven Ecuadorians who brought personal injury claims against Chevron. According to the lawsuits filed against Chevron, Ms. Chamba claimed that her son was diagnosed with leukemia, Ms. Gonzales claimed to have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and Mr. Crespo's claim was for "loss of consortium" related to his wife's cancer claim.
In a concise written decision, Judge William Alsup dismissed the personal injury claims by the three plaintiffs finding that the two women had admitted during cross-examination at sworn depositions that their cancer claims were false, and thus Mr. Crespo's claim was also without merit. The Court quoted Ms. Chamba's testimony that her son had never been diagnosed with cancer and that she had not authorized her lawyers to sue for cancer. The Court also quoted Ms. Gonzales' testimony that she falsely alleged she had been diagnosed with cancer because she thought "it would help her case."
In granting Chevron's motion for summary judgment and to dismiss as a sanction for fraud on the court, Judge Alsup delivered a sharp rebuke to the lawyers who brought the complaints against Chevron: "This is not the first evidence of possible misconduct by plaintiffs' counsel in this case. It is clear to the Court that this case was manufactured by plaintiffs' counsel for reasons other than to seek a recovery on these plaintiffs' behalf. This litigation is likely a smaller piece of some larger scheme against defendants." Chevron continues to believe that the claims of the other plaintiffs are without merit and will address them in a subsequent motion.
Judge Alsup reserved whether to impose monetary sanctions on plaintiffs' counsel.
The lawsuit was first filed against Chevron in April, 2006, by attorneys Cristobal Bonifaz of Amherst, Massachusetts, and Terry Collingsworth of the International Labor Rights Fund. Bonifaz was the sponsor of the Ecuador environmental litigation brought against Texaco Inc. in 1993 (ultimately dismissed by the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit in 2002), and the current lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador, though he is no longer affiliated with that litigation. Collingsworth has previously represented the Ecuador state oil company in its defense of an arbitration claim brought by Chevron.
To read Judge Alsup's ruling, please view http://www.texaco.com/sitelets/ecuador/docs/alsup_ruling.pdf
For additional information on this litigation, please visit http://www.texaco.com/sitelets/ecuador/en/
Note to Editors: The following are excerpts of the sworn depositions in which the plaintiffs acknowledged that they had fabricated their cancer claims:
Excerpts of Deposition of Gloria Chamba:
Q: In October 2002 did any of the doctors tell you that your son had been diagnosed with leukemia?
Q: Has any doctor ever told you that your son has been diagnosed with leukemia?
A: Absolutely not.
Q: Paragraph 12 of the complaint says that "In October 2002 Jane Gloria Chamba's son who was seven years old was diagnosed with leukemia." Did you know that (indicating)? . . .
Q: That's false, isn't it?
A: Yes, it's false.
Q: Your son was not diagnosed with leukemia in October 2002, was he?
Q: And your son has never been diagnosed with any type of cancer, has he?
Q: So when the complaint says that "Gloria Chamba's son contracted cancer because of his exposure to those toxins," that's false, isn't it?
Q: And when the complaint says that "Gloria Chamba provides care to her son as he slowly deteriorates from his cancer," that's false, isn't it?
Q: Did you ever authorize your lawyers to sue Texaco, claiming that your son has leukemia?
Q: Did your lawyers ever tell you that they were going to sue Texaco, claiming that your son was diagnosed with leukemia?
Q: Did Ms. Teresa [plaintiffs' paralegal] ever ask you whether your son had been diagnosed with leukemia?
Q: Did Ms. Teresa ever ask you whether your son had been diagnosed with any cancer?
Excerpts of Deposition of Luisa Gonzales:
Q: At the time you filed the complaint against Texaco in April 2006, did you know that you had not been diagnosed with breast cancer?
Q: You knew that it was false that you claimed to have breast cancer; right?
Q: And so you made up a false claim about having breast cancer, didn't you?
A: At that time, yes.
Q: Did you think it would help your case if you sued, claiming to have breast cancer, when you had not been diagnosed yet?
Q: Is that why you did it?
Q: Were you hoping that Texaco would pay you if you claimed to have cancer?