August 15, 2007 / 6:53 PM / 12 years ago

US judge lets Chevron Nigeria lawsuit continue

NEW YORK, Aug 15 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge ruled that a lawsuit claiming Chevron Corp. (CVX.N) violated human rights in Nigeria should proceed, throwing out some charges against the U.S. oil company but leaving the centerpiece of the plaintiffs’ case intact.

A group of Nigerians filed suit against Chevron in May 1999, charging that Chevron Nigeria recruited Nigerian military and police personnel to fire weapons on Nigerians staging a protest at a Chevron oil platform in 1998, killing two.

They also claim the company was complicit in an attack on two villages in the Niger Delta, during which at least four villagers were killed.

Judge Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California gave summary judgment on Tuesday in favor of Chevron on some issues — throwing out, for instance, claims of property damages by the villagers.

But the judge allowed wrongful death and other suits to proceed and reinstated some human rights claims against Chevron.

“A jury could conclude that Chevron Nigeria Ltd. had the power to hire, supervise, and train the government security forces, and that Chevron Nigeria Ltd. did so, or failed to do so, negligently,” Illston said in one order.

She said that a jury could also conclude that the company’s hiring and failure to train the security forces were a proximate cause of the alleged injuries of the victims.

“The court correctly refused to let narrow legalistic excuses allow Chevron to escape responsibility for these brutal attacks,” Rick Herz, litigation coordinator at EarthRights International and a lawyer for the Nigerians, said in a statement.

“The court’s ruling reaffirms that corporations who are complicit in human rights abuses can be held accountable, regardless of where those abuses occur.”

Cindy Cohn, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, said no date has been set for the trial, but she expects it to begin within a year.

Chevron was not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Michael Erman)

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