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Free access to US court documents filed against Royal Dutch Shell claiming $1B in damages

Due to the Defendants’ oil exploration in the Plaintiffs land and failure by Shell and others to meet minimum Nigerian or own standards, the Plaintiffs community is now characterized by heavy contamination of land and underground water courses, sometimes more than 40 years after oil was spilled.

By John Donovan

We have purchased from the United States District Court Eastern District of Michigan and now publish on the Internet, court documents issued in the court on 18 October 2011 against Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Shell Petroleum Development Company (NIG) Ltd.

The case is as stated in the related Washington Post article:

Nigeria village cited by UN for chronic oil-spill damage sues Royal Dutch Shell for $1B in US

Case No. 11-14572

HRH EMERE GODWIN BEBE OKPABI;
EMERE FORTUNE OLAKA OBE;
EMERE AKE OLUKA;
HONOURABLE PRINCEWILL AKE IGWE; HONOURABLE DANDYSON NGAWALA;
CHIEF LAWRENCE OSARO OYOR, for themselves and on behalf of the People of Ogale in Eleme Local Government, Rivers state,

Plaintiffs, v.

ROYAL DUTCH SHELL, PLC;
SHELL PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY (NIG) LTD,

Defendants.

SUMMONS ISSUED AGAINST ROYAL DUTCH SHELL  PLC

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

COMPLAINT AND JURY DEMAND – 32 pages

EXTRACT FROM COMPLAINT AND JURY DEMAND

20. The Niger delta is one of the most polluted regions in the world, with more oil spilled across the region each year than the oil spilt in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. According to Nigerian government figures, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are 2,000 official major spillage sites, many going back decades, with thousands of smaller spills still waiting to be cleared up.

24. Due to the Defendants’ oil exploration in the Plaintiffs land and failure by Shell and others to meet minimum Nigerian or own standards, the Plaintiffs community is now characterized by heavy contamination of land and underground water courses, sometimes more than 40 years after oil was spilled. With community drinking water at dangerous concentrations of benzene and other pollutants and soil contamination more than five metres deep in many areas with most of the spill sites, which the Defendants claimed to have cleaned, is still highly contaminated with dumping of contaminated soil in unlined pits and water coated with hydrocarbons more than 1,000 times the level allowed by Nigerian drinking water standards.

29. The UNEP Report further states that the people of Nsisioken Ogale Community have for several years being drinking water contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen at levels over 900 times above the World Health Organization guideline.

62. A 2007 CDC review of benzene toxicity concluded that there is substantial human evidence that benzene causes leukemia. It also reports aplastic anemia (a precursor of leukemia), chromosomal abnormalities in lymphocytes and bone marrow cells, damage to the immune system and abnormal development of blood cells. When blood cells are deficient, this can cause other serious medical conditions, including infection due to a lack of leukocytes and increased cardiac stress due to a lack of erythrocytes. Long term low level oral and inhalation exposures have also caused peripheral nervous system abnormalities, distal neuropathy, difficulty sleeping and memory loss.

84. On many occasions, the defendants have spent decades fighting lengthy appeals that bled the victims dry in legal costs. The culture of impunity include but not limited to the following: refusal to comply with a 2006 Judgment in which the defendants were ordered to pay $1.5bn in damages to the Ijaw communities of Bayelsa State. Since 2005, refusal to comply with another court order to end gas flaring in the Iwherekan community. The Ejama Ebubu community has waited more than 40 years for Shell to clean an oil spill from 1970.

124. The acts described herein constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of the Alien Tort Claims Act, customary international law, the common law of the United States, the statutes and common law of Michigan, the laws of Nigeria, and the international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions described herein.

129. Defendants engaged in conduct so reckless, wilful, wanton and in such utter and flagrant disregard for the safety and health of the public and the environment in their activities leading up to the Spill, as alleged herein, that an award of punitive damages against them at the highest possible level is warranted and necessary to impose effective and optimal punishment and deterrence. Plaintiffs, society and the environment cannot afford and should never be exposed to the risks of continuing spill that has not been abated and all of which were caused by the by Defendants’ misconduct herein.

130. The Defendant’s corporate culture caused and allowed it to disregard the lessons it should have learned and applied from previous incidents; instead, it continued to place others at risk in the interests of cost-cutting and financial gain.

133. Defendants’ conduct, as described more fully hereinabove, is at the highest level of reprehensibility, warranting and necessitating the imposition of punitive damages at the highest level, because Defendants’ conduct was motivated by financial gain; because it endangered human and environmental health and safety; because it caused devastating damage and loss to the livelihoods, businesses, and properties of Plaintiffs; because it is not isolated or accidental, but part of a culture and ongoing pattern of conduct that consistently and repeatedly ignored risks to others in favor of financial advantage to Defendants; and because it has accordingly caused societal harm, moral outrage and condemnation, and the need to punish Defendants and deter further repetition by Defendants or others.

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