Milieudefensie et al. v. Royal Dutch Shell (Nigerian oil pollution case)

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Dutch environmental NGO Milieudefensie and four Nigerians brought a case against Royal Dutch Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary in Dutch court over oil pipeline leaks that had polluted the villages of Oruma and Goi in the Niger Delta. Oil pollution from the pipeline had devastated the farmlands upon which the Nigerians depended.

In February 2021, the Court of Appeal in the Hague ruled that Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary were responsible for the oil spills, the first time a company had been successfully tried in Dutch Court for breaking a duty of care abroad.

Background[edit]

Oil spills occurred in the Nigerian villages of Oruma, Goi, and Ikot Ada Udo between 2004 and 2007. In 2008, Milieudefensie (the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth) helped four residents of the Nigerian villages bring a case against Royal Dutch Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, in Dutch court. The claimants argued that the spills were caused by negligence by Shell and that Shell had violated its duty of care.

In 2013, a court in The Hague offered a mixed ruling, finding that the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria was responsible for the spills but that Royal Dutch Shell can't be held liable for actions of its Nigerian subsidiary. Both parties appealed this decision. In 2015, a judge ruled that the Dutch court was authorized to rule on the oil spills in Nigeria.

Finally, in 2021, the Court of Appeal in The Hague ruled that Shell was responsible for the spills and that it could be held accountable in Dutch court. The judge ruled that Shell had violated its duty of care, ordered that the Nigerian plaintiffs must be compensated, and that a leakage detection system on the pipeline must be installed.

Relevant Law and Principles[edit]

  • Duty of Care
  • Negligence

Ruling[edit]

In 2021, the Court of Appeal in The Hague ruled that Shell was responsible for the spills and that it could be held accountable in Dutch court. The judge ruled that Shell had violated its duty of care, ordered that the Nigerian plaintiffs must be compensated, and that a leakage detection system on the pipeline must be installed.

Takeaways[edit]

This case was the first time a company and subsidiary have been tried before a Dutch court for breaching a duty of care abroad

Links[edit]

References[edit]