A Dutch appeals court ruled on December 18, 2015 that Royal Dutch Shell can be held liable for oil spills at its subsidiary in Nigeria, potentially opening the way for other compensation claims against the multinational. Judges in The Hague ordered Shell to make available to the court documents that might shed light on the cause of the oil spills and whether leading managers were aware of them. This ruling overturned a 2013 finding by a lower Dutch court that Shell’s Dutch-based parent company could not be held liable for spills at its Nigerian subsidiary.
The legal dispute dates back to 2008, when four Nigerian farmers and the campaign group Friends of the Earth filed a suit against the oil company in the Netherlands, where its global headquarters is based. “Shell can be taken to court in the Netherlands for the effects of the oil spills,” the court ruling stated on Friday. “Shell is also ordered to provide access to documents that could shed more light on the cause of the leaks.” The case will continue to be heard in March 2016. Judge Hans van der Klooster said the court had found that it “has jurisdiction in the case against Shell and its subsidiary in Nigeria”….
“There are 6,000km of Shell pipelines and thousands of people living along them in the Niger Delta,” he said. “Other people in Nigeria can bring cases and that could be tens of billions of euros in damages.” In a separate case, Shell agreed in January to pay out £55m ($82 million) in out-of-court compensation for two oil spills in Nigeria in 2008, after agreeing a settlement with the affected community in the Delta.
Excerpt from Dutch appeals court says Shell may be held liable for oil spills in Nigeria, Guardian, Dec. 18, 2015.