October 06, 2010
Source: Business Wire
One of Chevron’s lawyers at the law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher flew into a panic during a recent deposition when an American consulting expert began to testify about the massive quantities of toxins dumped by the oil giant in Ecuador, where Chevron faces a multi-billion dollar legal liability, according to court papers filed recently.
Chevron is being sued by more than 30,000 residents of for illegally dumping billions of gallons of toxic contaminants, poisoning an area of rainforest the size of Rhode Island and creating what is believed to be the world’s largest oil-related disaster. The lawsuit, originally filed in U.S. federal court in 1993, was moved to Ecuador at Chevron’s request in 2002. The plaintiffs recently submitted a damages assessment against Chevron of up to $113 billion in part to cover the costs of cleanup at 916 sites and compensation for an estimated 10,000 cancer deaths.
Faced with overwhelming scientific evidence of the contamination in Ecuador, Chevron recently returned to U.S. courts to seek discovery of 23 Americans associated with the case. This led to the deposition in San Diego on Sept. 10 of the American consulting expert, William Powers. `
In a legal brief filed on Sept. 28, lawyers for the Ecuadorian communities recount how Chevron lawyer Andrea Neuman – charged with trying to “rescue” Chevron from its massive Ecuador liability -- clearly panicked when Powers tried to testify about the oil giant’s responsibility for the contamination.
After Powers had been deposed for several hours by Chevron, a lawyer for the Amazonian communities suing Chevron indicated that he had some additional questions. Powers is considered a leading authority on oil field contamination and had visited the sites of Chevron’s operations in Ecuador on various occasions.
The mere suggestion that Powers might be cross-examined “set off a panic among Chevron’s counsel,” according to the brief of the Amazonian communities. No wonder – when Powers finally was able to speak, he testified that Chevron’s practices in Ecuador caused an environmental disaster that was at least 30 times larger than the crude discharged in the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
To avoid this damaging testimony, Neuman went to great lengths to shut down the questioning.
“First, Ms. Neuman claimed that the “office is closing” and therefore Mr. Wilson could not cross-examine Mr. Powers,” according to the brief filed by the plaintiffs.
Neuman then stated the questioning could not go forward because Chevron was not “notified” that it would happen – a remarkable assertion given that it is standard for depositions to conclude with a cross-examination.
Neuman then claimed the cameraman taking video of the deposition “has to pack up”. When that didn’t work, a Gibson Dunn colleague claimed they only had “five minutes” to listen to questions.
Finally, Neuman claimed that Mr. Wilson – who is from New York and is a partner in the firm of Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady -- could not ask questions because he was not admitted to the bar in California despite the fact the Gibson Dunn lawyers had agreed to his participation earlier in the day.