Legal Translation: Implications of Chevron v. Ecuador

Legal Translation Services for Transnational Litigation

Litigation translation services for law firms and attorneys play a very important role in transnational litigation.  The United States Supreme Court recently handed a clean victory to an oil company accused of polluting the Ecuadorian rain forest. This case, which has spanned four countries and several decades just added a new chapter a few months ago when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider Ecuador’s effort to enforce a $9.5 billion arbitration award against the Chevron Corp.

This legal translation blog article discusses that headline-grabbing case in some detail and shows how the case itself is a powerful argument for just how necessary quality legal translation services are for law firms and corporations in today’s international legal climate.

Chevron v. Ecuador – The Beginning

In 1964, the country of Ecuador began a relationship with a subsidiary of Texaco, whereby Ecuador gave the company permission to explore for, and extract, oil in the country’s Amazon rain forest region. About 10 years later, Texaco and Ecuador agreed that Texaco would develop oil fields in Ecuador, if the company gave Ecuador discounts on oil for domestic use.

By 1990, it became clear that the oil fields would need environmental remediation, and the agreement between Texaco and Ecuador was set to expire, with no extension agreement on the offing. A dispute began, and Texaco, which was later acquired by Chevron, agreed to spend $40 million on remediation in exchange for a full release from further liability.

The Litigation and Recent Supreme Court Decision

In 1993, 30,000 residents of Lago Agrio in Ecuador (the area around the oil fields) filed a class action against Chevron in U.S. federal court, claiming that the clean up was incomplete. Chevron maintained that any oil spills occurred after their remediation was complete. The Lago Agrio suit was blocked from U.S. courts, so the case was re-filed in Ecuador. That case ultimately resulted in a $9.5 billion award against Chevron handed down by an Ecuadorian court in 2011. Steven Donziger, an American lawyer, represented Ecuador in its legal battle.

Since that time, Donziger has been trying to have the award enforced. U.S. courts, however, keep blocking enforcement of the judgment because Donziger allegedly used fraud, bribes, and other corrupt actions to obtain the Ecuadorian judgment. Finally, several months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it will not hear an appeal on the case. Donziger has also attempted to enforce the judgment in Canada, Brazil, and other countries where Chevron has a headquarters.

Legal Translation Services in Cases Such as Chevron v. Ecuador

The legal systems and the languages of countries vary from country to country. The Chevron case demonstrates how legal translation services are so vital. Four different countries – United States, Ecuador, Brazil, and Canada – are involved in the Chevron case. Translation of important legal documents in class action and multidistrict litigation, therefore, becomes a logistical nightmare without a high-quality legal translation service in your corner.

Indeed, legal terminology is complex and certain terms exist in one country’s legal context that may not exist in another. The legal translator in those cases must be able to find an equivalent term to ensure the original meaning of the legal document is left intact.

Taking the Chevron case as an example, all of the documents in the Ecuadorian court needed to be translated accurately for the U.S. federal courts to understand and make rulings on the material. Moreover, the attempts to enforce the judgment in three different countries also require legal translation services to ensure that the meaning of the legal paperwork in each country remains unchanged. That is no small task for a legal translator, because errors are not acceptable. The stakes in the Chevron case were in the billions of dollars.

– For Precise Legal Translation Services

It is important to remember that all business translation services are not the same. Quality truly matters. At All Language Alliance, Inc., your firm will be afforded professional, precise legal translation services. Our translators are all expert level who not only understand the language they are interpreting/ translating, but understand the culture of the countries as well. Therefore, whatever the language or subject matter, you will always receive technically and culturally accurate translations.

The Chevron case discussed above shows how much legal translation services help make a case move forward. Without legal translation, the case could not have moved to Ecuador or any of the other countries involved. For your next matter, reach out to our certified legal translation service, and get the best in legal translation services.

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