Nigerian farmers can sue Shell in Netherlands

The Hague Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 18 that Royal Dutch Shell can be sued in a Dutch court for their involvement in oil spills in Nigeria. The ruling stems from a suit brought by four Nigerian farmers that claimed Shell and its Nigerian subsidiaries were responsible for oil leaks leading to their lands being damaged. In a statement explaining their reasoning for their decision, the Court of Appeals said, "It cannot be established in advance that the parent company is not liable for possible negligence of the Nigerian operating company."

The ruling overturns a decision in January 2013, when a Dutch court ruled that a Shell subsidiary could be held liable for damages to one Nigerian farmer, but dismissed the other farmers' claims.

Last month Amnesty International (AI) reported that Shell has failed to clean oil-polluted areas of the Niger Delta despite the company's assurances (PDF) that it has properly handled the oil spills. In November 2014 AI issued a report finding that Shell made false claims (PDF) about the potential impact of an oil spill in Bodo, Nigeria.   In October 2012 four Nigerian residents and an advocacy group told the Dutch court that Shell should be held liable for damage from oil pollution in the Niger Delta. The suit was the first time a Dutch company had been sued for the alleged misconduct of its foreign subsidiary.

From Jurist, Dec. 18. Used with permission.