Environment / Environmental Law, Screw-Ups

Gibson Dunn Discovers a Typo

Steven Donzinger has been working on behalf of Ecuadorian natives for seventeen years, representing them in a lawsuit against Chevron alleging the oil company has destroyed their rainforest. It’s a much-covered case, and Harvard Law grad Donzinger has usually been cast as the hero fighting the big bad oil company.

But it looks like Donzinger’s legal team may have done something a little dastardly.

From the Wall Street Journal:

In 2004, the plaintiffs hired Mr. Calmbacher, a Georgia-based biologist and environmental scientist, to help oversee soil and water tests in Ecuador.

Reports signed by Mr. Calmbacher, which were submitted to an Ecuadorean court in 2005, showed high levels of toxins at two sites and estimated the contamination would cost more than $40 million to clean up at these sites alone.

Gibson Dunn lawyers representing Chevron Corp. discovered a typo in those reports: the spelling of Charles Calmbacher’s name. When Gibson lawyer Andrea Neuman (who looks a little like Kristin Davis with short hair) deposed him, she discovered the toxin reports were a bit polluted…

Calmbacher’s expert reports reflected high levels of pollution in the Ecuadorean rain forest, but in a deposition, the scientist said the contamination at the sites he examined “was not as serious as the reports indicated.” From the WSJ Law Blog:

Gibson Dunn’s Andrea Neuman, the Chevron lawyer who conducted the deposition, said Chevron became suspicious after Calmbacher apparently misspelled his own name in letters to the Ecuadorean court asking for an extension in filing his reports.

In his deposition, Calmbacher said he had flown back to the U.S. early due to illness, and had therefore sent pre-signed pages back to Ecuador with the understanding his findings would be printed over his signature. But he said the reports that were filed didn’t reflect his conclusions.

He said he never saw the final version of the reports that were submitted to the court until he was shown them during the deposition. “I did not reach these conclusions and I did not write this report,” he said in the deposition.

Moral of the story: hire expert witnesses whose names are easier to spell?

Chevron Suit Data Questioned [Wall Street Journal]
Misspelling Leads to Big Discovery in Chevron/Ecuador Case [WSJ Law Blog]

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments