Oil major Royal Dutch Shell cannot be sued in London courts over Nigerian oil spill allegations, the High Court ruled on Thursday, dealing a setback to attempts to hold multinationals liable at home for subsidiaries’ activities.
If the High Court had ruled in favour of the two groups, other claimants against British-based multinationals could have been emboldened to pursue legal action through the British courts, some legal experts had said.
Villagers from the Bille and Ogale communities in Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta region were trying to pursue oil spill allegations against the company’s Nigerian subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) in British courts.
The court ruled that the suit did not establish that Shell, the parent company, had legal responsibility for SPDC’s actions.
The Nigerian villagers argued domestic courts were unfit to hear their case, while Shell said the matter was a uniquely Nigerian issue and should be heard there.
Shell also denies responsibility for the spills, which it says were due to sabotage and illegal refining.