In many of the sweeping suits filed these days under the Alien Tort Statute, gigantic sums are demanded based on purported human rights violations half a world away which arrive at U.S. courts as tangled and hard-to-check factual allegations, often at odds with the foreign government's own account of the events in question (or, at other times, conveniently congruent with it). Do you ever get the feeling that the factual predicates of these ATS cases are more plastic and manipulable than those offered in, say, a tort suit arising from a crash at exit 31 of the Interstate? Last month, reported the SFChron's Bob Egelko, "Nigerian villagers who are suing Chevron Corp. in a San Francisco federal court have quietly moved to withdraw half of their claims that the oil company was responsible for military attacks on protesters in the late 1990s." Plaintiff's lawyers gave no explanation for the abrupt change of course, though a National Law Journal account has the lawyers cryptically citing a conflict of interest as the reason. Chevron describes the occupation of its oil platform, which was eventually broken by a commando assault, as "a violent occupation of private property by aggressors seeking to extort cash payments from the company". The remainder of the case is headed for a trial this fall.
"Nigerians pull half of claims in Chevron suit"