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Royal Dutch Shell braced for a flood of compensation claims

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Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 14.30.30By ROB DAVIES FOR THE DAILY MAIL19 December 2015

Royal Dutch Shell is braced for a flood of compensation claims against its Nigerian business over oil spills, after a ruling that makes it more vulnerable to lawsuits.

Judges in The Hague, Netherlands, ordered Shell to hand over documents that could shed light on the cause of spills, which the firm blamed on sabotage by oil thieves.

The ruling is a blow for Shell, which had argued that cases against its Nigerian joint venture SPDC should be heard in Nigeria where the plaintiffs are based, and where companies cannot be held responsible for spills caused by sabotage.

In 2013, a judge ruled that while SPDC could be held liable for spills in Nigeria, parent company Royal Dutch Shell could not.

The fresh ruling does not overrule that decision, to be heard on appeal next year.

But it does give the court in The Hague jurisdiction over actions taken by SPDC, potentially clearing the way for claims against the Nigerian business to be heard in the Netherlands.

This allows Nigerian farmers to take legal action that could result in large compensation payouts.

‘There are 6,000km of Shell pipelines and thousands of people living along them in the Niger Delta,’ said Friends of the Earth Netherlands director Geert Ritsema. ‘Other people can bring cases – that could be tens of billions of euros in damages.’

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