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Appeal planned in Chevron Nigeria lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The lawyer for a group of Nigerian villagers says he'll appeal a U.S. court verdict that cleared Chevron in the shootings of protesters by Nigerian troops.

A federal jury in San Francisco Monday found Chevron innocent of any responsibility in the 1998 incident in which Nigerian soldiers killed two of the protesters who had taken over a Chevron offshore oil rig.

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Plaintiffs attorney Bert Vorhees said the judge in the case erred when she allowed Chevron to tell the jury that some of the protesters, none of whom were plaintiffs in the lawsuit, had commandeered a nearby tug boat while fleeing the scene.

The Los Angeles Times said Tuesday the outcome of the case could have a bearing on other pending lawsuits filed against U.S. oil companies over their activities in foreign countries.

The newspaper said legal observers were watching to see how Vorhees' use of the 1789 Alien Torts Statute worked out. The law, which dates back to George Washington, is being used as a basis to hold U.S. companies accountable under U.S. law for their actions in foreign countries.

University of California Hastings College of Law professor Naomi Roht-Arriaza told the Times the jurors appeared to accept the contention the statute applied to the case and focused on the allegations.

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"The fact that they managed to have a jury trial was already a huge

victory," she said. "If you are a corporate executive, you have to

consider the consequences of calling in the security forces, especially

if they are known to be abusive."

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