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Dutch Court Adjourns Shell Nigeria Lawsuit Until Summer

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

AMSTERDAM -(Dow Jones)- A lawsuit against Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB) over oil leaks in Nigeria has been adjourned by a Dutch court, one of the plaintiffs said Wednesday, adding that the hearing should start this summer.

The lawsuit has been adjourned because the plaintiffs’ lawyers need more time to prepare the case, Friends of the Earth said. “In complex cases like this, it is not unusual to postpone the trial,” spokesman Geert Ritsema said.

The legal proceedings will continue March 24, while the hearings are expected to start this summer, he added.

The lawsuit has been brought by four Nigerians, in conjunction with Friends of the Earth Netherlands, who say they lost their livelihoods when oil from leaking Shell pipelines contaminated their farmland and fishing ponds in the village of Oruma.

They say they are taking Shell to a court in the Netherlands because Shell is a Netherlands-based company with direct control over the activities of its units abroad and because Nigeria’s legal system is inadequate to handle the case.

The Dutch court ruled in December that it has jurisdiction to hear the case. It said “it is not unusual” in the Dutch jurisprudence to rule on events that happened outside the Netherlands.

The court, which is based in The Hague, is still deciding whether it has jurisdiction to hear two other similar cases. The final decision on that is expected this spring.

Shell has always disputed the claims made by the plaintiffs, saying the oil spills were caused by the pipelines being sabotaged by Nigerian militants. The oil major has also challenged the Dutch court’s jurisdiction, saying the cases should be handled by a Nigerian court.

-By Maarten van Tartwijk, Dow Jones Newswires; +31-20-5715-200; [email protected]

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 10, 2010 08:02 ET (13:02 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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