In December, we won our appeal on behalf of indigenous Achuar communities from Peru who are suing Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) for toxic contamination; the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the case could continue in U.S. courts. As we expected, Oxy asked for reconsideration, filing a petition for rehearing. Yesterday, the court granted the petition for rehearing–but we still won.
What’s going on here? Basically, the court granted the petition as a technical matter, because the judges did reconsider, and change, some parts of their opinion. But they didn’t change the result. They still reversed the district court’s ruling that the case should be litigated in Peru, and still allowed us to continue in U.S. court.
The judges made some changes to their discussion of the statutes of limitations and some of the considerations in whether to send the case to Peru, such as whether the Peruvian courts are generally adequate to hear these kinds of cases. These changes address some of Oxy’s criticisms of the opinion, but they ultimately don’t help the oil company.
So is this finally the end of this appeal? Maybe; maybe not. Oxy can now file another petition, asking the court for an “en banc” rehearing in front of a larger panel of eleven judges. Those petitions rarely succeed, but in litigation, anything can happen. For now, we’re still winning, and the Achuar still have the right to pursue justice in US courts.