October 21, 2007
Lawyers Fined in Suit Against Chevron
Fortune's Legal Pad has the story and order. In short, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of nine Ecuadorians alleging toxic tort damages. But:
On Tuesday, a federal judge in San Francisco sanctioned three human rights lawyers after three of their clients disavowed having ever suffered from the injuries the lawyers had alleged in complaints filed on their behalf thirteen months earlier.
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In the complaint, filed in April 2006, the attorneys claimed that two of those plaintiffs had “been diagnosed with cancer,” while the third feared contracting it. The attorneys filed interrogatory answers on these plaintiffs’ behalf in February and May 2007 that seemed to reiterate those assertions, but in late May 2007, in depositions conducted in Ecuador, the three plaintiffs disavowed the claims being made on their behalf, claimed not to have previously met the lawyers bringing the case, and not to have realized that lawyers would be suing on their behalf in the United States.
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Judge William Alsup, a Clinton appointee, imposed a $45,000 fine on lead counsel Cristóbal Bonifaz, an American lawyer who was born in Ecuador and who maintains an office in Conway, Massachusetts. If Bonifaz does not pay the fine by the end of the year, Judge Alsup ordered each of his co-counsel, Terry Collingsworth and Paul Hoffman, to pay half of Bonifaz’s debt at that point. Collingsworth is the general counsel of the International Rights Advocates in Washington, D.C., and Hoffman, who was legal director of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California for ten years, is now with Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman in Venice, California.
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