The Chilling Effect of Loser Pays
I have to agree that it’s very unlikely a group of Nigerians can afford the half a million Chevron is requesting:
Civil rights lawyers, who accused Chevron Corp. of human rights abuses in Nigeria for a decade only to lose a jury verdict in December, now accuse the oil giant of trying to scare off future civil rights cases by seeking $485,000 in court costs from the Nigerians.
"Given the extreme poverty of the plaintiffs, of which Chevron is well aware, Chevron certainly cannot be operating under the impression that it will actually recover this huge sum from them," wrote Cindy Cohn, attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, representing the plaintiffs.
"Instead it seems likely that the goal of the cost bill is the chilling effect of imposing substantial costs on future litigants," she wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Susan Illston on March 11.
Loser pays is only fair when both litigants have somewhat equal wealth, else very poor litigants aren’t likely to pursue litigation against wealthy defendants. I haven’t read enough about this case to offer any opinion on its merits, but I can confidently say that multibillion-dollar corporations shouldn’t be able to protect themselves from human rights abuse lawsuits in this manner.